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This review was originally written for The Public Review.

http://www.thepublicreviews.com/gym-party-battersea-arts-centre-london/

Clad in coloured wig and slightly too small white singlet and shorts, the three contestants are lined up under their name in neon light, ready to compete. The backbone of the show is a series of contests and the first round takes the form of a number of silly games. Closely fought battles such as who can fit the most marshmallows into their mouth makes hilarious viewing. The second round is a series of arbitrary voting by the audience on various attributes and appeal of the three contestants on stage. These votes, and an excruciatingly personal punishment on the losers of the round make one question the boundary of contests, friendship and entertainment in general. On top of this, the contest is preceded by a prologue with a short commentary on the egotistical, celebrity culture which surrounds us, presented as an affecting personal confession.

This part theatre, part performance art, produced by Made In China features Jess (Jessica Latowicki), Ira (Ira Brand) and Chris (Christopher Brett Bailey) and the audience gets to cast a judgemental eye upon them during the contests. This is coupled with a slightly odd and absurd demeanour and the lines are blurred as to where the character ends and the real person begins. There is an air of authoritarian and prescriptiveness in the characters’ thinking and thought processes which reflect on the society we live in. Thrown into the mix of the childish competitiveness of the contests, there are philosophical musings about groups, consensus and the conflict between friendship and the desire to win. There are also tales of awkward childhoods, along with the questioning of life choices and an emphasis on blood and sweat expended in their achievements. Finally, the audience interaction adds another element to the already broad lists of issues touch upon.

This is great work by the company and demonstrate their ambition, imagination and scope. However, it is presented in their idiosyncratic style which may not be to everyone’s taste. The denseness of the topics discussed may sound heavy going but they are all presented in a funny, charming and light hearted manner and it is hard to resist not being swept along by its sincerity and intelligence.

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