The Irresistible @ PICA Performance Space
June 14-24, 2017
Directed by Zoe Pepper
Performed by Adriane Daff, Tim Watts
Sometimes a simple idea can snowball into something greater.
Case in point, a microphone allows voice modulation. What if that was used to change the voice of the actors rather than just project it? What if shifting to a higher or lower tonal range, changes the audience’s perception of the character? Would such a trick allow the gender of an actor to become fluid, allowing them to take on various roles? What would such an experiment say about the audience’s perception of a character based on either how they were visually or vocally presented? Such is the core of The Irresistible, the latest two person show from Side Pony Productions and The Last Great Hunt.
Through the use of such a trick, The Irresistible becomes an exploration of our own unconscious bias. Voice manipulation allows the two actors to assume multiple roles throughout the play, switching regularly between the masculine and the feminine. It prompts an examination in the nature of power and authority in relationships, and our own bias in assigning that. That bias – that there is still a base assumption of a masculine, and age dominance – is often subverted in the play through the use of technology and some extraordinary acting from the two performers.
That shift from the masculine to the feminine can happen with whiplash rapidity. In an extraordinary recurring sequence Adriane Daff voices both characters in a sexual encounter inside a peep show both, shifting between the two in lightning succession. It is a wondrously strange performance, running a gamut of relationship and power dynamics – from the sleazy, to the brutal, to the oddly sweet. This may be the extreme example (allowing for a showpiece performance at the end), but throughout the course of the show both Daff and co-performer Tim Watts slip seamlessly between the differing roles, transmogrifying themselves through the modulation of their voices, and their body language.
The result is a strange, interlinking tale, with twists and turns designed to keep the audience slightly off balance. In many ways The Irresistible is reminiscent of late 70s and early 80s sci-fi films (although the X-Files certainly gets a nod as well). This is more than just through its glass, chrome and fog-clad stage setting, or its beige gender neutral turtle-neck uniforms. Rather it is through its examination of the potentiality of humankind (both for good and ill) by an unnamed and undefined force. The central enigma driving the play might not be satisfactorily explained, but like a good Twin Peaks episode, the joy is in the hunt for meaning, rather than it being delivered gift-wrapped.
Inventively staged, evocatively scored, and extraordinarily acted, The Irresistible offers an amusing and confronting chance for self-reflection.
Photos by Dan Grant