By Greg Wohead
The Soho Theatre
The Soho Theatre
Let me start by saying that I found this show very exciting! The premise alone was enough to make me go: YES! Maybe I’m a geek, I don’t know. But Celebration, Florida by Greg Wohead is an unusual and one-of-a-kind performance with an intention to reach out for connection with other people. That reaching out, as in life, requires vulnerability, stepping into the unknown, in a way that feels both thrilling and confusing.
Celebration, Florida is both the title of the show and a real location in the state of Florida, USA. A planned community, originally developed by the Walt Disney Company, near Disney, it features all the quaint and nostalgic components of Americana. The houses are modelled on different architectural styles from across the country, and street shops contain all your American brands. But because of the climate in that state, there is no autumn foliage, and so every October, the transition into that season is faked by having leaf-shaped confetti thrown all over the town. A mix of very real excitement, fun, sadness, and inauthenticity. This mix of having something standing in for something else, inspired the performance.
In itself, the show contains a clear narrative, carefully constructed around different versions of a very famous song – which I won’t name, so I don’t spoil the fun and surprise – and it includes several elements of performance: monologues, dance, physical theatre, song, drama, comedy.
The really exciting thing, however, is the premise: two performers stand in for Greg Wohead. They have never met each other, are completely unrehearsed, and have no idea what the show is about. They walk on stage, each grabbing a set of headphones previously placed on the floor, and promptly start receiving instructions, whose nature the audience has no clue about. You see the performers’ facial expressions change and switch as they receive instructions in their headphones, and you get a sense of whether they are comfortable or not with what they are about to do or say.
There was something really exciting about seeing performers engaging with something that they were being directed to do in that moment, often revealing their own selves in the process. As the programme states, “they are self-consciously themselves and someone else at the same time, constantly slipping off one and onto the other.” From performer to real person, from character to self, and back again. I spent a great evening watching Lucy McCormick and Vanessa Macaulay in this performance, but each night, there will be a different set of two performers. If I had the time, I would actually love to go see every single performance, and see how different it would be.
Go and check it out! It will be fun!
Warrington Contemporary Arts Festival, Friday 13 July
Tobacco Factory, Bristol, 14-17 November https://www.tobaccofactorytheatres.com/shows/celebration-florida/
© Ryan C Valadas 2018