CircusFest, Roundhouse, London; 4th April 2018
When one of the main themes of a piece is death, you don’t usually expect to leave feeling uplifted but Fram and Dunt, directed by Ellie Dubois for Collectif and then.., paints the fragility and unpredictably of life and death in a refreshing, light hearted and strangely life-affirming manner.
Entering the intimate studio, the preset stage is deceptively serious. Francesca Hyde (aka Fram) feels the air around her, performing as herself, with her eyes closed, hair rigged for hanging, while a suggested internal monologue plays out through the space. ‘How do your kidneys feel? Feel how your weight is distributed’. The atmosphere is profound and I feel an instant desire to establish a deeper meaning for the artistic image presented. This atmosphere is broken suddenly when the two young boys in front of me begin playing loudly with the whoopee cushions that have been left on every seat. The show continues in this fashion, creating moments we wrongly assume to be serious and reminding us that life does not have to be about the deeper meaning, but that joy can be taken at face value.
While it is not necessary to establish a meaning to enjoy such an effortlessly entertaining show, I couldn’t help but find myself trying to connect the dots. In doing so I have come to the conclusion that the show itself is not the important thing. The significance is in the making of the show; why they are doing, rather than what they are doing. As with the show’s themes of life and death, the destination is not the key – it is the journey that we focus on, not the final outcome.
The show is structured around the email exchange between Fram and her father, Joe Hyde (aka Dunt), in the lead up to the creative process, allowing the audience a glimpse into the very personal relationship between father and daughter. We come to learn of Dunt’s self-diagnosed near death experience and his internal struggle for self-fulfilment in a job that supports his family but not his dreams. He aspires to be a musician or, if dreams could come true, an astronaut.
Fram opens the show with a fabulous hair hanging routine. Her movement quality is weightless and she performs with a playful flare that keeps the routine engaging yet carefree, which fits wonderfully in the Roundhouse’s intimate Sackler Space. Towards the end of the show, we see Dunt take to the skies. Using the same counterweighting system as Fram and – after a dramatic change into a silver body suit – we finally see Dunt fulfil his life long ambition. It isn’t graceful and it isn’t technical but it is beautiful, heart warming and joyous. As moments go, this one is now in my top ten.
Fram and Dunt is a simple show. Two performers, a rail of costumes, a piano and a one-line counterweight. However, with a little imagination and a lot of honesty, Fram and Dunt reminds us that play and performance can provide freedom and opportunities that cannot be found anywhere else in life. On stage, you can be what you want to be and achieve what you want to achieve; if you can make an audience believe it, it’s real.