London-based performance group Figs in Wigs are not easy to describe. Their website offers some help, suggesting you imagine ‘Kraftwerk meets Chicks on Speed at a fruit stall…and you‘re nowhere close’. However, their latest offering – the seemingly disparate, yet cleverly devised ‘Show Off’ – is perhaps your best bet at figuring out what this passionate, all-female company is all about. Dance, music, and comedy all collide in this corrupted cabaret, and, as the cast triumphantly declare, there’s no better place to finish the tour than in Leeds. No matter how peculiar the performance was, the audience assembled at the Live Art Bistro duly laughed along (even if they were occasionally ordered to).
In essence, the performance entailed a series of sketches, all performed by the Figs themselves, and through the medium of a succession of separate artistic genres, incorporating everything from contemporary dance to the very odd post-grunge band that concluded the show. However, this description does not really do justice to the chaotic energy that disrupted any structure that the audience might have been searching for. As costume changes happened on stage and the cast took a two-minute break to take selfies with the audience, it was quite clear that Figs in Wigs were not pursuing any conventional artistry. Instead, it seemed they were after the direct opposite, deconstructing all that we might expect from a youthful, Feminist performance company.
Thank goodness then for the short introductory monologues to each sketch. Each member had their attempt at describing what was about to be played out on stage, invariably getting trapped in their own plays-on-words, prompting both laughter and ironic cringing from the audience. However, it was amongst this uneasiness that the more touching moments arose. “This show is about social media and narcissism” declares one Fig, halting, if only briefly, any silliness and prompting a reassessment from the audience. Leaving it until halfway to declare this description was somewhat effective. Suddenly, the opening dance number that had seen the women marching devotedly to incessant music, gazing unwaveringly at their iPhones had much more poignancy. The outlandishness depicted in the sketches and the variety of garish costumes both contributed to the ironic attack on narcissism that was at the centre of ‘Show Off’.
There were moments when Figs in Wigs hit their stride, humorously attacking the sexual side of narcissism, with one quipping “we don’t have penises, just penis envy”. Occasionally though, the humour that runs through the show comes off as confused and plain awkward. Of course, the awkwardness is supposed to be part of the comedy, but sketches that see pretty standard toilet humour vaguely masked as contemporary circus ultimately fall flat. The performance group evidently have a lot to offer but this never totally transfers in ‘Show Off’. When one of the microphones faults and fails to project yet another pun, one of the Figs inadvertently shouts out one of the show’s best ironies: “This is all planned, by the way!”
Images: Christa Holka (featured) & Manuel Vason (insert)