Often Onstage

At its most fundamental, theatre could be described as a series of entrances and exits, with a variety of complex journeys thrown in between the two to spice things up. A self-described “choreographic exercise in comings and goings”, Often Onstage is a bizarre production which, despite its tremendous energy and inventive humour, never quite works out what it wants to be.

The individual moments of the show — many of which are fun, some brilliant — fail to coalesce into anything more than an entertaining miscellany.

Take the apparent theme: comings and goings, entrances and exits: an idea exploited to brilliant effect in the opening third (or so) of the show. At the start, the company litter the stage at the start of the play, dead, wearing Elizabethan ruffs, ready for Scene One: The End. We see what happens after the final bow of that Shakespearean show, the disassembling of the set, the post-performance self-appraisals, the next group of performers rushing through their own preparations — all the mundanity behind the magic. It’s ingeniously done, and very funny.

But then the show changes identity entirely, and we move on to the meat of the performance—a central dance sequence. The actors — now dressed in all green and wearing new wigs that make them look like Sia’s sisters — perform an alien routine full of jagged, striking choreography. The performers are still entering and exiting the stage, sure, but otherwise there’s no real tether between the first two sections. At this point, the thematic focus shifts to the performers themselves, as voiceovers detail their insecurities surrounding the viability and sustainability of working in theatre. There’s a hilarious parody, also, of bland, corporate motivational videos, that is sublimely done.

The Figs in Wigs are not trained dancers—which is partly a good thing: the lack of formal training is most likely integral to the visually inventive choreography and the visceral energy on which the show relies and succeeds. But it’s also partly bad. Persistently noticeable rough edges — a lack of synchronisation, a noticeable variance in the ability of the performers — undermine the visual power of the piece.

After the dance, there’s a finale centred on the Backstreet Boys that’s loosely, but insubstantially, connected to the previous section. It’s another personality transplant for the show, donned as easily as the cast switch between their many wigs. It’s all good fun, but Often Onstage too often feels like a few different ideas stitched together into a show, as opposed to a cohesive or coherent statement on anything. The cast is charismatic and talented, but the individual moments of the show — many of which are fun, some brilliant — fail to coalesce into anything more than an entertaining miscellany.

Reviews by Jamie P Robson

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The Blurb

Figs in Wigs present Often Onstage. An offbeat facetious romp that explores the ins and outs of the stage through the medium of dance. With one step forward and two hundred steps back this choreographic exercise in comings and goings plays with a myriad of ways to enter and exit the stage, unearthing dormant anxieties about life choices along the way. What if the only thing keeping you going are inspirational quotes and a subsidised income from your side project as a Backstreet Boys tribute act? It won't be long before we sell-out, and we don’t mean tickets...