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LOL (Lots of Love)

Protein Dance

by David Mead

March 17, 2012-- The Place, London, UK

Sitting on the train people watching after watching “LOL”, it was brought home to me just how accurate Luca Silvestrini’s piece is. There were any number of people, sat there, faces glued to their cellphone, texting away and, in one case, quite audibly fretting because someone hadn’t replied inside a few minutes.

Silvestrini has a thing about such modern day obsessions, highlighting their shallowness with incisive humour while also making us stop and think. In “Big Sale” it was the consumer society and in “Dear Body” it was body image. Here, he turns his attention to text messaging, social networking and love.

The opening video projection featuring a series of faces staring at screens sets the tone immediately. It’s as if we are looking at these people through their laptop or cellphone screen. Common to all is their concentration and glazed eyes. These are people digitally linked to the rest of the world, but who are also very alone.

“LOL” is 70 minutes of talk and dance, often witty, occasionally poignant, and all done with considerable skill by the excellent cast. More often than not, duets feature text speak. The dance and speech come at high speed and in compressed bursts, all text-message or Twitter-like. The speech even comes complete with emoticons: “dot, dot dot”, “bracket, semi-colon”, “smiley face” and many more. One dancer muses most seriously about how many ‘X’s he should put on the end messages. All the time the dance is urgent, Silvestrini making excellent use of the space. The cast throw themselves at one another with abandon. A number of duets feature one dance talking while being manipulated by another, sometimes almost rag doll-like. It all calls for split-second timing, which the cast manage to produce again and again. Kip Johnson was particularly impressive in these sections as he was pushed around by Omar Gordon. The inference seems clear, the device or message is in charge, not the messenger.

It is all very amusing, but although the piece is subtitled “Lots of Love”, as the programme reminds “LOL” has many other meanings including “lack of laughter”, “lack of love” and “lack of luck”, and could equally stand for “losers on lone”, “lack of love” or even “log off loser”. Such sentiments come increasingly to the fore later, when there is a distinct change of tone as Silvestrini moves on to consider Internet dating. The women in particular struggle to express their personality. Sally Marie is particularly convincing as she tries to trap a man, any man. When the dates finally get to meet, coming face to face is difficult and uncomfortable. It’s as though they are locked permanently into their Internet world and their dating-site profiles with no hope of escape. Everyone’s web personality, it seems, is even more real than the human being behind it.

The poignancy and sadness climax in the final scene. Looking dreadfully innocent and lost, Kip Johnson stumbles around the now darkened stage. In his arms is a sheaf of tangled wires. He tries to fashion it into the shape of a human being, before curling up on the floor with it. It really made you feel for him.

“LOL” has been touring for over a year now, but it still looks as fresh as when first aired. Everything is complimented by Andy Pink’s soundtrack that’s full of beeps, pings, and every other sound that’s associated with messaging. My only gripe is that I do wish they did not feel the need to use mikes. At somewhere like The Place I would question the need, and it did result in the weird effect of seeing the dancers speak, but hearing their voices from speakers way up in the roof and to the side. There were issues with the higher pitched women’s voices too. But, putting that aside, “LOL” is brilliantly observed. Silvestrini’s dancers just make you connect with and empathise with them as once again he, and they, prove that you can do humour in dance and be warm and generous all at the same time.

“LOL” continues on tour to Wellingborough, Knowsley, Sheffield and Belfast. See www.proteindance.co.uk for details.

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