To enter Shoreditch Town Hall for Wedding is to enter the set of a Wes Anderson film. Its kitsch aesthetic (grand surroundings up-lit in soft pink) and kooky charm work to let in only a glimpse of the sinister undertones of the piece. Indeed, it even has a Tilda Swinton lookalike in the form of performer Christopher Brett Bailey. The entire 60-or-so minutes is an utterly unpredictable hotchpotch of uninvited guests, free cake and terrible best man gags, which flirts with a promenade format that allows the audience to be both involved and a spectator at the same time. It’s all very clever. Perhaps a little too clever in fact; at times I could almost hear my brain audibly wheezing in its struggle to keep up with the eclectic, chaotic, oft baffling images and scenarios that we were presented with.
As far as I could make out, -disclaimer: this is not perhaps the plot, but is what I understood- we are guests at the wedding. But forget idealised HELLO! magazine front pages, this is a car crash unfolding in real time in front of us; the groom has not showed up, and in his place, we have a gibbering Japanese lady that seems totally unconnected to everything else that is going on, and an impish, and increasingly impatient, registrar, who appears to revel in his own self-deluded grandeur, and the misery of those around him, misery which he seems to work to impose. I don’t want to reveal too much else, because Wedding’s power lies in pulling out the unexpected.
Wedding’s perplexing premise is expertly handled by its three performers. Bailey has an ominous presence as the registrar (or is he some sort of Cabaret-esque Emcee?), co-creator Hannah Ringham manages to juggle deadpan comedic timing with a Miss Havisham style of desperation. Throw into the mix the anarchic Kazuko Hohki. Why is she there? Who knows. But I think that is the point.
Yet I couldn’t help feeling that this was less theatre, more performance art. So perhaps it should be judged as such. As a piece of theatre, it did at times, feel a little over-indulgent, a little knowing, as if this was all one big in-joke, an in-joke that the audience were not fully invited in to. This, for me at least, created a certain degree of disconnect between audience and performer, and disconnect is pretty lethal when promenade theatre is concerned. As a piece of performance art however, it can be seen as darkly witty and fiercely intelligent. So which is it to be? Theatre and performance is at its strongest when it has a clear understanding of what it is exactly, of the identity it holds. Any blurring of this creates confusion amongst audiences, which is a pity, because, in parts, Wedding was like nothing I’d ever seen before.
I have to admit I’ve never been to a wedding. But I bet I’ll never go to one quite like this ever again either.
Wedding is at Shoreditch Town Hall until 29 June. For more information and tickets, see the Shoreditch Town Hall website.