at Warwick Arts Centre, Tuesday 2nd November 2010
If we take away a seemingly fundamental part of something, the results will be either tragic or hilarious. A world without ice would be disastrous for ice-dancers, and would no doubt leave many of them feeling depressed and idle. In Dancing Brick’s How Heap and Pebble Took on the World and Won, however, the two eponymous characters do not let the lack of frozen water get in the way; they battle on through, extrapolating the strength and will which many of us do not realise we have inside us.
Heap and Pebble are rehearsing for a competition after “revolutionising” the way ice-dancing is performed. They are conquering heroes, but stories of their past suggest certain facts they wish to go untold. With the help of audience members acting as interviewers, we are given an insight into their celebrity personas, wildly different from their working relationship. When the cameras are off, we see that Heap is a neurotic perfectionist while Pebble is quiet and troubled.
We then watch their rehearsals, and particularly the repetition of one unconformable lift. Over and over again we watch, but the wooden surface is not suited to ice-dancing moves, even if it is incredibly entertaining visually. Had human stupidity not allowed the ice caps to melt, the pair would not be forced to consider such variations. Sometimes, however, the script is somewhat cryptic. An incident in Lillehammer is mentioned near the beginning of the piece, and although we are told later what happened, we never really understand the implications. By being economical with words, the audience is left filling in too many gaps.
Written, directed and performed by Thomas Eccleshare and Valentina Ceschi , who play Heap and Pebble respectively, the play is clearly the result of a collaborative effort. Some of the moments of awkwardness played out by Eccleshare are close to genius, being representative of some of the more embarrassing moments in The Office. Ceschi acts as the perfect foil to her partner, and although she has fewer lines she is just as captivating to watch.
The final moments of Heap and Pebble are beautiful, allowing the dancers to escape the confines they have been working in. These two sportspeople are standard-bearers, standing resolutely in the face of adversity. This isn’t necessarily a play about climate change, but the themes are conveyed with more ease and more effectively than Earthquakes in London. A simple idea combined with simple imagery and simple humour make for a thrilling sixty minutes of theatre.