The warmth of the theatre is replaced by the surprisingly cold floor of the foyer, where we sit in front of a giant, tiered cake. BELLYFLOP’s debut was The Homemade Issue, and the set for Cake is a celebration of that billing. Red and pink kitchen sponges in the shape of hearts, fabric, ribbon, paper clips, tissue paper, and flowers adorn this six-foot-tall creation. As we gather in the round, feeling very cool to be in the know about this alternate happening at the Wells, bells start to play. The sound is coming from inside the cake, and it starts to feel like the floor could erupt with the vibration. Instead, the top of the cake does, with the Bedazzled Eleanor Sikorski emerging as the love child of Georgiana Cavendish and Lost Dog’s It Needs Horses.
Four acts. First act: Love. She sings ‘I love you’ in a refrain that is committed in its rhythm, but not in its breathing pattern. The octave of the bells, crossed by the three-word repeat. There is no getting away from her gaze. Dustin Hoffman asked Laurence Olivier why performers perform. Larry responded: ‘Look at me, look at me, look at me.’ In this looking, we love Eleanor and she tells us she loves us back, showering us with marshmallows, love hearts and prophylactics.
Second Act: Birth. Like Cameron’s Fizbo on Modern Family, she pulls endless bunting out of her mouth. On the end is a naked plastic doll, covered in salivary placenta. She confirms for the punters in the back, ‘It’s a baby’.
Third Act: Death. She asks: ‘Would you rather die of heat or cold?’ ‘Would you rather eat someone alive or be eaten alive?’ All the while she’s combing out her powdered coif with a sequined hair-brush-cum-mic.
Final Act: The Circle of Life. A Hula Hoop is revealed à la Joanie Spina, and is manipulated in a romp to Garage’s I’m Only Happy When It Rains.
The next day, I still have heart-shaped confetti in my notebook, and a smile on my face for seeing something I didn’t expect and watching a performance that didn’t let me anticipate what would come next.
Californian Ankur Bahl is a documentary artist who creates work for stage, television, film and print. As a performer, he’s worked for companies including DV8, RSC, Tara Arts, and NDC Wales. Ankur loves tweed suits. Check out his RSC blog. Ankur also wrote about The Mermaid and The Hammer.
O and Cake are bold, assured performances. I expected nothing less given the artists involved and the context of the event. They are also, deliciously for me, the antithesis of each other.
Cake closes the evening…and it’s a love-fest, an invitation to partake in an intimate serving of four acts. We are guided to surround a platform upon which sits a large, love-heart adorned, cake. Expectancy is such an exquisite thing.
After a climactic building of chimes from within the cake, the performer explodes into view. She is an exuberant circus performer. A gymnast gone rogue. A movie-star of old, thriving on the adoration of her fans. I am reminded of a Gloria Swanson quote “I have decided that when I am a star, I will be every inch and every moment a star”.
With the status established in the setup, we, the audience, gaze up in delight. She, the performer, towers above and enchants with song, story, and questions, bestowing us with gifts of love along the way. Confetti, love hearts, marshmallows and condoms are strewn, and, by the final act of impressive hula-hooping, we are utterly charmed.
Cake is witty, absurd, and touching. As a performer Eleanor exudes warmth. Three days later I continue to discover lovehearts and marshmallows in my bag. The gift that keeps on giving.
Fiona Millward has been an independent dance artist since 1985 and Co-Director of Independent Dance since 1996. She is currently on sabbatical from ID, whilst she ponders what’s next. Fiona also wrote about O.