We're not fully invited into this "celebration", but it is an impressive debut nonetheless

theatre review | Read in About 2 minutes
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Published 18 Aug 2017

Towards the beginning of their devised two-hander Celebration, performers Clara Potter-Sweet and Ben Kulvichit outline a set of “ground rules” for the show. They promise not to forget their lines. Not to be boring. To be meaningful, to "shirk the notion of shallow escapism” – and so on. By making their creative intent explicit, the duo set out a kind of optimistic charter for what follows, but also much to live up to.

That Celebration can’t hope to deliver on all of this might be the point – but this outcome is still disappointing for an audience. However, there is much that is rewarding in Celebration’s fragmented scenes and songs. A recited list of things they are “looking forward to” is at turns plausible—“graduation”, “Jobseeker’s Allowance”—and satirically unlikely: “disposable income”, “owning my first house”. A comforting embrace slowly becomes grasping. Moments are returned to and reenacted in fruitful ways.

Yet the central problem with the show is that the “celebration” doesn’t feel like something we’re invited into, or fully caught up in. The music isn’t loud enough, the performances lack true abandon – when Potter-Sweet and Kulvichit disappear into a crafted playhouse structure to ask questions about each other’s imaginary world, the feeling of being left out is compounded.

There’s also an inescapably naïve, student drama feel to Celebration, a sense that when they say, “I will only provide spectacle, I won’t yield to character”, this is an idea they are discovering for the first time. It is, however, in many ways an impressive debut.