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June 23, 2011 | by  | in Theatre |
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Thricely? Precisely. A Pocketful of Pips

So a blonde, a brunette, and a red head have OCD…

Thricely? Precisely. A Pocketful of Pips is a tight, 45 minute dance piece that gives the audience glimpses into living with a compulsive disorder. This is not just having your Pepsis all facing the same way though, these are controlling, illogical, and at times dangerous compulsions that affect a person’s ability to interact with society. This investigation into the private world of compulsions creates a profoundly affecting piece of theatre.

Three wonderful female dancers show us everyday lives, and how they are affected with a compulsion. Heavy use of daily tasks; waiting in a doctor’s office, showering, etc, allows the dances to seep into the surreal as their individual ticks take over. Through repetition and routine, they each have a go at expressing their separate compulsions in everyday life. The dancers are all beautiful to watch, all three are fluid and dexterous. Also each has their share of ‘wow’ moments where skill or clever moments of theatricality keep even the non-dance savvy audience members engaged.

The set is simple, venetian blinds cover the backdoors at BATs, and the dancers are onstage when we enter. The blinds speak to the private nature of the episodes; we are inside a house during a night. Clear glass jars of varying heights filled with what appear to be peas group in corners. The image reeks of a desire to control anything, no matter how surreal. We watch the background dancers study the jars and peas throughout; I would imagine the feeling pleasant and therapeutic, similar to dipping your hand into a beanbag. Towards the end the dancers shower themselves in polystyrene peas and they blow around the stage, manipulated by the dancers themselves.

The individual stories are interrupted by the watchful eye of the remaining dancers, usually at a point of climax when their compulsive scratching or hitting is becoming dangerous to watch. This is brilliant; no dance ever reaches that cathartic moment; that satisfaction of scratching the itch was never achieved.
Each individual dancer suffers in silence, but the piece is backed to original music by Tane Upjohn-Beatson. Clicks and rhythms, ringtones and mosquito whining, techno and house music all help underscore the spontaneous and systematic nature of OCD. A particularly memorable and silly moment used Tetris music. Tetris, contrasted with previous softer sounds that alluded to something you might find on a stress relief CD, helps demonstrate the rollercoaster-like progression of an OCD episode.

Mattresses are manipulated superbly to suggest the childishness or silliness of some compulsions. It’s also nice to see that the dancers may get a lie down at some point; by the end of the play they are covered in sweat and red marks, effects of their compulsions. The effect of this play was immediate; audience members were scratching away along with the dancers. Indeed we became aware of some of our own ticks.

This is its second time in Wellington, and, with luck it’ll be back for a third. It’ll be the only way to scratch the itch.

– by Sam Phillips

Thricely? Precisely. A Pocketful of Pips
Presented by Pinwheel
16 – 25 June at BATS

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