Tim Etchells' The thrill of It All desperately doesn’t want to fit on to a page. Throw me a load of miss fitting adjectives, I’ll write them down and the review might compose itself better than I ever could.
The piece sits on a bed of bad dancing. A tired, unsexy cabaret. The wigged cast, mostly in their forties, sweat and wobble to varying degrees. ‘Welcome to our show!’ a woman croons into a voice-distorting microphone. ‘We’re going to take you on a journey’. I feel a bit queasy.
The thrill of It All is excellently complex. An awful show with a pathetic cast explodes in front of us. A reel of dance numbers which trips over itself, shoots itself in the foot, eats itself up and reveals itself as a fragile, troubled and heart breaking spider web of human hope and desperation. The men in white suits and the women in white fringe – they are a chorus but we discover each character to be meticulously constructed. They fight each other, compete with each other, stroke each other, copy each other and present to us their personal motivations and conclusions.
The complexity is in the layering of performed performance and performed reality. When the ‘show’ is broken the piece gets interesting. The well placed cock-ups become our guide through the sparkle and noise. They are vivid and embarrassing. The mishaps make the piece lull excruciatingly but only in order that we can be brought up again. It gets as good as it lets itself get bad. Scenes run until they are drawn thin. Running and running until there seems to be nothing left. Then from the emptiness something new arises – a moving, funny or disturbing transformation which owes most of its beauty to the vacuum which preceded it.
We flow with them. Cringing at their clichéd dreams, judging their stubbornness, being amused by their naive attempts to ‘reach’ us and desiring their childishness. We follow with a closeness saved for things that we care about. At least, I do. If we didn’t then we would miss the good bits and then it would be awful.