So many different voices, all jumbled on top of another. The ensemble of Propolis Theatre, the fifth generation of Bristol Old Vic’s Made In Bristol programme, segue between individual vocal clips by speaking all at once. There is a myriad of sexual stories out there to tell – the cast have interviewed a number of real people as part of Spill and compiled them into an hour-long summary of insights, opinions and viewpoints. It’s a jumble of noise that speaks a clear message – sex is not something that can be generalised.
The ensemble is keen to inject light-heartedness into the show, dispel any awkwardness in talking openly about what is perceived as an uncomfortable topic. Dorothy Collins mimics a fumbling feel-up on the dancefloor with herself; Elana Binysh seems thoroughly unimpressed, a resting bitch face motionless throughout a monologue; Scott Bayliss talks about how nice it would be just to have a girlfriend with a bashful confidence; Hal Kelly talks about glory holes with an awkward honesty that is instantly likeable. This is a company that are connected with each other, able to communicate non-verbally and slip between monologues with experienced fluidity.
But not everything is fun and games, despite the good-natured humour that runs underneath Spill. Faye Bishop and Binysh are a highlight when they sit down and candidly describe experience of rape in a way that magnifies the scenario without losing the audience. Bishop in particular is shy but realistic – she doesn’t report the incident because it won’t give her closure. She simply sighs, resigns herself to the past and continues forward. The simple nod of a head or the look in her eye convey hidden layered meanings in this particular story that are a poignant highlight.
In an attempt to add dimension to the performance, there are interjections of song and dance breaks that mould the ensemble into a collective entity. The majority of these are conceptually confusing, they often don’t add to the dialogue and distract from the central speaker. There is something to be said in having confidence in the material without the need for bells and whistles. But competent voices, particularly in Binysh and Jenny Davies, push these moments forward before they become too grating.
In the end, it is left to Jack Harrold to wind the party down after the climax – lights on and time to leave. Quickly spoken; blunt honesty; relatable and funny, this character is the best in show. Propolis Theatre take the title of this performance seriously – at times verbal diarrhoea, at times professionally articulated, Spill is definitely a show that opens our eyes to the variety of sexual opinion and experience.
Spill played Camden People’s Theatre as part of Hotbed Festival of Sex. For more information, please see the website.