For the 22nd year, Sprint festival at Camden People’s Theatre is upon us, and boy oh boy is it the place to be if you like your theatre experimental, angsty and most importantly, semi-naked.
The launch night of Sprint 2018 saw a double bill of new work: If Britney Could Get Through 2007, We Can Get Through This by Jo Hauge, and I Want You To Admire Me/But You Shouldn’t, presented by Dirty Rascals. Both pieces are bold, unusual and fitting for a festival that prides itself on showcasing ‘the most extraordinary array of new and diverse indie theatre talent’.
If Britney can get through 2007, we can get through this is fairly straightforward, part therapy session and part Britney tribute act, as Hauge dissects their teenage self and ongoing struggle with mental health and gender identity in the light of Britney Spears’ famous 2007 meltdown. On a slightly creepy set covered in wigs, this pondering on Hauge’s life is interspersed with Hauge and a live band performing and dancing to some of Britney’s classics, with more enthusiasm than talent but it somehow works. It’s fairly self-indulgent – a much needed catharsis for someone who has been through A Lot – but it’s also thought-provoking, and carried by the warmth and sincerity of Hauge’s storytelling.
Although Hauge is fiercely non-binary, it is a fitting show to be performed on International Women’s Day as an anarchic celebration of ‘girliness’, female and non-binary strength, and body positivity. The band is also all non-binary, and hats off to CPT for centring this diverse, bold and strangely inspiring piece prominently in their festival.
I want you to admire me/but you shouldn’t is more ambiguous. Starting off as a gameshow – three contestants compete to be crowned the most admirable – it is light-hearted, funny, and hosted by the extremely personable Pavlos Christodoulou. The audience are engaged, voting for example on whether the Dalai Lama is better than David Attenborough (spoiler – he’s not) and laughing along at ‘Pav’s’ jokes.
And then things, as things invariably do, take a darker turn. Contestants begin to act less admirably, and are shamed for it. This starts off with the hapless birdwatcher Howard being forced to stand centre stage while the host and other contestants criticise him, and ends with all three contestants stripping and covering themselves in blood and feathers. If I had to guess, I’d say it was a commentary on ethics, morality and our uneasy relationship with celebrity and public figures.
It’s not for everyone. If you’re staring at the screen, scratching your head and shuddering Britishly at the thought of all that nudity and wigs and anarchy, this may not be the festival for you. If you revel in it, there is almost no place better to catch a wide variety of unusual and innovative pieces. Expect nothing slick or high-tech, but unfettered creativity.