Impermanence Dance presents… Roadhouse – review

Words by Sophie Catherine Chinner

‘No plan’, ‘just open improvisation.’

Roadhouse, a unique improvisation show, was hosted, for one night only, at The Weston Studio, Bristol Old Vic by the comical duo: Eleanor Sikorski and Lewys Holt. Acting as the original ‘Roadhouse House Band’, the pair led us through their spontaneous, playful, un-created creation. Alongside the two, they are joined by a new guest performer at every venue, and this time, they had appointed local dance artist Bryn Thomas to take on this role for their most recent gig. Collectively, they form Roadhouse.

Structured into three segments, the night is divided into two thirty minute slots; the former for the duet and latter for the solo performance, followed by a final fifteen minute group jam to close. At first, I was unnerved by the lack of music, however, very gradually I became less distracted by this concept, and in some ways, their experiments with the ground, their voices and items around the stage area did provide an aural soundscape. Reflecting back, I realise how the work tests you as an audience member to accept and maybe even adapt to what could be deemed a challenging watch for some. Improvisation is not often demonstrated or practised in a theatrical space, so in their own words, this show is definitely as much a time for ‘audiences to practice watching’.

Also on stage, a live documenter shared the space with the physical performers. Through sketches and written commentary, there is evidence of the different ‘scenes’ that appeared throughout the evening. When I had a glimpse of what he was scribing, I noticed it perfectly mirrored the nonsensical nature of the Roadhouse performance and was equally random.

All three performers were interactive and none of the artists seemed fearful about speaking, making noise or even singing in their performances. Dressed in jeans and relaxed shirts, the whole event felt very understated and mellow, they simply allowed their physical movements and vocals to tell the silly, but sometimes serious, stories of each montage. Eleanor seemed to particularly enjoy toying with the set, curtains and whatever arbitrary props were around, i.e. audience members’ ‘boots’. The others, observant of the other cast’s actions, were then able to respond quickly to each other. There was a definite sense of cause and effect on one another, which demonstrated excellent listening skills and awareness.

The middle section was designated for soloist Bryn. His sporadic movements were astonishingly good at telling a story. It often felt like snippets from a choreographed physical theatre show. The audience were particularly enveloped in the comedy when he created the image of a ballet dancer preparing for their big solo to the growing tension in the orchestra, and ended up just doing a headstand.

Very niche yet undeniably humorous, Roadhouse is a fun, modern show that effectively tests the traditional forms of dance performance.

Image from Impermanence Dance.