Review by Kate Gaul
Voloz Collective is an ensemble based physical theatre company who trained together for two years at L’École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq. Collectively from the US, UK, and Paris the Collective present two shows at Edinburgh Fringe this year. The company is Olivia Zerphy, Paul Lofferon, Emily Wheatman, and Sam Rayner, accompanied by an onstage musician.
“The Life Sporadic of Jess Wildgoose” is the story of young American idealist Jess Wildgoose who travels to New York City to make her fortune in the financial district. She learns life’s big lessons from the wolves of Wall St to become a she-wolf herself. It’s a plot of many twists and turns.
The Collective create each scenario using their bodies and a set of brief cases which get used for everything from tabletops, automatic doors, city skylines, window ledges. The choreography is tight, as you would imagine, and inventive for the most part. Physical work in this piece is mostly about creating real-world spaces (a car, a lift, a window ledge) and occasionally exploits the more poetic or imagined worlds – the underwater scene is one of the best.
Foley effects are most adroit when created, vocally, by the cast themselves. The onstage musician creates a throbbing synth underscore and is an occasional in-person character. The music is best described as generalised mood setting as required. It’s a great resource to have a fifth member of the team who can interact musically with the onstage antics and in this instance, he really is an underused creative resource.
The production uses a lot of spoken text as well as physicality. Emily Wheatman has gold plated physical and vocal comic chops and in her hands the material is a genuine thigh slapper. Wheatman appears and disappears from the ensemble as required. Her characters are memorable and hilarious. Watch out for the cap wearing office cleaner – she is worthy of an entire show! The combinations of texts – physical and vocal – at first appear to support each other but eventually the spoken text becomes quotidian where we want it to fly. The plot is ploddingly literal for most of the hour and the story feels as if it outstays its welcome.
On a curious note – the action of “The Life Sporadic of Jess Wildgoose” appears to take place in the 1990s and work its way forward with Jess’s climb up the corporate ladder. There is a heap of great jokes about dial up internet and skype and its great territory to mine. Wall St, the 1990s, the looming 21st Century…. naturally what leapt to mind was that Jess’s rise and the events of 9/11 would coincide. The company bypassed that event in its plotting process. Context helps create much of the story in an audience’s mind and the stage was set for country mouse Jess to intersect with one of the key moments thus far in the 21st Century. The production begins with a suicide attempt from Jess and the stakes never really return once she is rescued.
“The Life Sporadic of Jess Wildgoose” is highly skilled physical theatre but meanders once the stage is set.