I was impressed by the summary this show boasts, breezily claiming to encapsulate the bulky genres of contemporary dance, comedy and social commentary in a neat hour. No wonder it's called 'Failure'. A sparsely clothed Mary Pearson explores the dark grey areas around disappointment using beans (hard, not baked) to illustrate the plethora of hopes that end up trampled underfoot, stuck to ass cheeks or trapped under furniture.
It's the privilege of experimental art to ignore convention and Failure dutifully defies useful narrative devices, such as plot or characterisation, in favour of the troubling, girlish imagery which crowds popular culture. Clambering up and down on her hot pink pedestal, for example, was such a heavy-handed gesture to 'post'-feminist (dis)empowerment rhetoric that there might as well have been a sign with an arrow shouting 'Ladies – WHY?' Ideas are picked up, stroked, and then put down again in favour of something shinier, resulting in sequences so choppy it’s difficult to derive any real significance from them. Failure hints, but never slaps, perhaps because it attempts to encompass too much in its heart-shaped bean circle.
Nonetheless, Pearson is an appealing performer – her dancing is strong, utilitarian, her body an effective tool for creating or more often, breaking, a mood. These movements are punctuated by peppy, schizophrenic diatribes which effectively linked the more surreal aspects of the performance. If you can imagine a live, feminist version of a Tarantino movie – simultaneously grotesque, exciting and uncomfortable – you’d be nearly there. Pearson even managed to get injured during a particularly energetic scrabble in the bean circle; we were captivated watching the blood trickle down her knee as she slipped between characters.
What comes across most forcefully is our communal, perpetual struggle for approval. Thematically, perky, freaky Mary just about sews this, with feelings of lovableness, inadequacy and futility, together. Nearly. This is about as Fringe-y as the Fringe gets, and I haven't seen it's like this season. Failure provides the audience with a unique challenge and more than a moment's connection with a kindred, serial disappointer.