Take on Me review at River Bourne Health Club, Chertsey – ‘entertaining and slightly surreal’
Dante or Die creates innovative, site specific theatre in everyday, and often unlikely places. Its latest production Take on Me does just that, as two very different stories unfold in and around a local leisure centre. To add to the texture of these stories, the whole thing is set at the height of the keep-fit boom in the 1980s. The audience is guided through each performance space by a pair of wandering minstrels, decked out in silver spandex and immaculate new-wave make-up, plucking classic 1980s hits on a ukulele and keytar.
Andrew Muir’s text touches upon themes of insecurity and ennui, as the age of consumerism takes no prisoners at this sports centre. Surreal episodes abound as Fiona Watson’s Lisa is challenged either by the memory of her late husband or a team of insistent Ghostbusters, while Terry O’Donovan’s lifeguard, obsessed with video culture, slips perilously into Walter Mitty territory.
Take on Me opens in the intimacy of a locker room and gradually crescendos into a swimming pool finale, as unlikely friendships are forged to a chorus of Bonnie Tyler’s Holding Out for a Hero.
The core company of performers is joined by a diverse team of volunteers, enthusiastically filling out the aerobics class or fashioning a poolside choir, while further cementing links between the community and the arts. Considering the tour is visiting a different Surrey leisure centre each day, Daphna Attias’ direction is remarkably adaptable, switching smoothly between each space without diminishing the charm of these very human stories.