New Art Club: Feel About Your Body | Review by Steve Bennett
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New Art Club: Feel About Your Body

Note: This review is from 2013

Review by Steve Bennett

New Art Club’s latest show is impossible to categorise, both boldly genre-defying and something of an inconsistent hodge-podge.

The duo, Tom Roden and Pete Shenton, already occupy a pigeonhole of their own, having spent 12 years applying their dancers’ training to comedy. Set pieces that combine rhythmic vocals to staccato shape-throwing have become their calling card, and they unveil another couple of examples here. Especially fine is the one about the grandfather who had a shed – a hypnotically repetitive refrain that boasts an unexpected punchline. And never underestimate the comic power of a crazy-legs routine.

But they also aim to go beyond their existing style. For starters the show has an overarching theme, about body image. We’re asked to rate our own bodies at the start, and over 60 minutes they want to make us re-evaluate that.

It means there’s more of a stand-up element to the show, both in this interaction and as Roden describes his sessions with a terrifying Scottish physiotherapist or how he’s really not happy with his itchy bum... eventually imagining a dialogue with his own anus. He can’t be the only person to have had a conversation with an asshole this Fringe.

Despite this silliness, Roden is nominally the straightman in their effortless and relaxed double-act dynamic. While he’s talking engagingly, Shenton disappears from view to set up a sight gag. The show, they are at pains to point out, contains nudity, albeit in a silly way; it’s as non-threatening as Puppetry of the Penis.

But then that dynamic is undercut with Shenton, once he’s got his clothes back on, revealing a brush with death. It’s a serious, gripping story, told with gravitas and Shenton has us hanging on his every word – but the comedy has gone out of the window. The puncturing of the tension comes after a long time, and isn’t a good enough gag to warrant the set-up, if you’re judging this routine by a purely comedy yardstick.

The show has a satisfying conclusion, adding further meaning to sketches earlier in the hour, and delivering a positive message. When we re-rate our bodies, everyone will surely have upped their opinion.

Review date: 26 Aug 2013
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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