Flitting flawlessly between comedy and sincerity, you cannot be bored in Body Show.
Oscar Merlin Griffin
We are ushered into the Pleasance Beneath venue (very dungeon) to see the wedding cake topper of Liv Ello and Frankie Thompson, illuminated in hot pink, dressed like a 70s couple going to prom. Paired with the spookily distorted “Barbie Girl” remix playing in the background, this boldly sets the tone for the show’s exploration of gendered expectations.
Body Show presents an image of extreme gender roles through the invocation of familiar media - first with a slightly clunky vintage American focus, with Ello’s masculine character a Marlboro smoking cowboy and Thompson a feminine ballerina. All of this is shadowed by the looming threat of nuclear destruction. The gendered roles set out in childhood are shown by Barbie and Ken, children’s birthday parties, and morph into the more sinister rhetoric of influencers like Andrew Tate. The familiar images used take on a negative association as we see our characters strangled by the pressure of preassigned gender.
We move from retro American into comfortable British TV nostalgia, from well-known italic text fights to Mary Berry’s tips on Bakeoff. The self-aware pop culture references garner easy laughs from the audience, until the show moves into exploring body dysmorphia. Clips of Lena Zavaroni’s struggle with anorexia in the spotlight, Simon Cowell telling young women to lose weight (to groans from the audience), and montages of Naked Attraction and Embarrassing Bodies show the crushing effect of the British media on body image.
The show’s greatest strength is its flawless slickness. With a heavy reliance on lip-syncing and playing clips on screen, the actors are perfectly in time and what could be a risky move is extremely effective. The same can be said for the perfect music and choreography, and even the fast-paced lines that keep the energy high throughout the show. Flitting between comedy and sincerity, you cannot be bored in Body Show, as the duo take you on an emotional journey that leaves a good chunk of the audience in tears.
Contrasting individual body issues with nuclear fallout, dysmorphia and dysphoria with dystopia, initially makes the personal seem comparatively insignificant. However, by the end of the show, the all-pervasive onslaughts on the body seem equally crushing.
Body Show is on at the Pleasance Courtyard, Beneath at 17:00 until 27th August.