Red Lick by Sunniva Moen Rørvik a spectacular Queer Celebration of Norewegian Pop-Culture

Words by Sarah Lapinsky.

Sunniva Moen Rørvik aka Big Papa Slug (they/them) certainly made a splash at the opening night of Resolution festival at The Place. In the festival focused on supporting the development of new works, specifically “that piece you always wanted to make,” we certainly found a gem with Red Lick. Recognising that this piece may not be for those interested in the stern formality of a classical piece, the comical, unserious playfulness spreads joy to those that choose to enter into this world.

Part 1:

Lights come up and Big Papa Slug is front and centre in white while the other six dancers trail in a V-formation behind them. Staring blankly at the audience to a score of raging dance music, they slowly raise the glasses to their faces with all the intensity they can muster. With glasses finally adorned, Rørvik tears off their track pants before their shirt is ripped off to reveal their chest on full display to the crowd’s cheers and whoops. Already, the world is clear that anything can happen and nothing is off limits in this piece.

Without losing a beat, house lights come up and a pragmatic transition to part 2 takes place: Costume pieces are stricken, four dancers in black take their places and a chair is set as two performers enter holding with a black sheet to hide the chair…

Part 2: 

The four dancers begin what I can only describe as an elevated, sarcastic macarena (there is a clip of it on their Instagram and I will be learning it before my next night out). I have no idea how they are maintaining their straight-faces, especially when the sheet is pulled away to show Rørvik now dressed in a jean skirt and vest with a striking white horseshoe mustache. Now, I must admit I do not understand this reference* or even what they are saying as the song is in Norwegian, but as the audience begins clapping along to show support, I know for sure that lip-syncing can save the world. Rørvik drips with charisma as they enter the theatre to serenade various audience members before returning to the stage for a big finish followed by the luxurious awkwardness as the house lights come up again and the dancers make their way off stage.

*Rørvik clarified this is a reference to Trønderrock band, D.D.E.

Part 3:

The stage is blank and flooded with blue light as a performer enters from the back corner scuttling toward the audience with their face in a cut out of something. As they move closer, I can see the second pair of feet shuffling from behind them to push their face into the cutout of what I now can see is a Pepsi Max can. They continue moving toward the audience taking space in the cut out and pushing the other out (quite literally in ours and each other’s faces) until they reach the audience and give something to one of the spectators. I could not quite make out what this was from my seat, but I would presume some glasses or a soda? Regardless, the roar of laughter was sufficiently entertaining even if I did not get the joke. In accordance with the structure, the performers unceremoniously exit with inelegant bourrees off the stage.

Part 4:

Three dancers take to the stage carrying a giant fabric thing as the chair comes back once again to be placed front and center at the point of the V as the fabric is unravelled to reveal a cape. Rørvik enters and takes their place standing on the chair to have a wig placed on their head as the is cape tied onto them. Again, I have not a clue what this is reference** to, but that does not stop my enjoyment as they lip-sync along to the song. The audience is undoubtedly into it especially once the hairdryers come out to add even more atmosphere. The section ends with applause as the song ends and even more indulgent blankness as we transition to the next section.

**Turns out the song is “Fairytale” by Alexander Rybak which won Eurovision for Norway in 2009.

Part 5:

A performer with cue cards and a character I would call an enforcer enter the stage. The cue card says “applause” and so we do so until the card is discarded and the next one says “stop.” So begins a game of silent simon says- the obedient audience amusingly follows our cues of “laugh,” “stop,” a reluctant “boo,” “stop,” “woo,” “stop” and finally a picture of a drum as we slap our thighs to set the stage for the finale.

Part 6:

This part I recognised immediately. In a final homage to mother, Lady Gaga, Rørvik enters along the diagonal in a white shirt with a red fabric meant to be blood coming out of their chest recalling the 2009 VMA performance of Lady Gaga. ‘Paparazzi’ plays loudly on the speakers as the rest of the cast joins on stage in a pile flailing on the ground. They all arrive, but SURPRISE- more dancers! The lights fade as the giant pile of performers writhe on the ground with passion for whomever they are the biggest fan of in that moment until the blackout comes and they take their bow.

An exciting piece full of spectacular reveals, the only thing I would say as they continue refining the work is to find the final ending. Of course, that’s a ridiculously difficult task when your piece is full of so many incredible endings (seriously, I think we applauded at least six or seven times). Truly, what this piece brought was joy and playfulness, which in this day is incredibly valuable and worthwhile. I am excited to see the future iterations of this work come to fruition and just how much wilder we can get (I will be sure to brush up on my Norwegian Trønderrock before next time though).

Cast and Credits:

Choreographer: Sunniva Moen Rørvik

Producer: Becky David

Costume: Löe D’Arcy

Dancers: Bel Eade, Sula Castle, Yu-Chien Cheng, Roseann Dendy, Löe D’Arcy, Andrea Callaghan

Header image: Olivia Wallis Jackson Photography Featured: Löe D’Arcy (to the left) and Bel Eade (to the right).

Red Lick premiered at The Place part of Resolution Festival 2023 Thursday, May 18th.