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> > > SignDance Collective perform 'New Gold' and 'Half a Penny'

Elizabeth Ward reviews a double bill of the latest from SignDance Collective at Croydon's Warehouse Theatre

A poster showing a pair of red shows and hands waving in the air

SignDance Collective's 'New Gold' is one half of a double bill, the other being 'Half a Penny'

On Friday 13th, I had the privilege of going to watch the world-renowned SignDance Collective/ The first performance, 'New Gold', is a hilarious take on the Olympics and Paralympics and what it means to win, or attempt to win.

The characters were slightly unhinged, with their desperation to win and gain the applause of the audience, and almost cartoonish, emphasising the disparity between winning gold and the need for everyone to feel wanted and accepted.

The actors skipped between dance battles and signed songs, with the compere breaking up fights yet encouraging competition.
The characters are all distinct and colourful.

There is an English contestant, played by Laura Goulden, who fawns over the audience and invites applause, whilst there is an Italian thief, played by Francesca Osimani, who is always dropping stolen pound notes on the floor. David Bower plays a Welsh contestant, who is constantly begging the audience for money. The Cuban character, played by Isolte Avila, was stunning, wearing the beautiful red shoes in the poster!

The performance was in turns funny, strange and exciting.The mix of physical theatre, sign, dance and comedy challenged the audience and was unlike anything I have seen before.

The performance is a fusion of different sign languages and speech, as well as music, making for a truly multi-lingual experience.

In the end, the race for gold becomes something else. Perhaps it looks towards a society where everyone feels accepted - a society that isn't so focused on competition and winning money, gold and fame.

The second part of the night was given over to the performance of 'Half a Penny', featuring the band Dead Days Beyond Help, a sensational rock / folk duo. The performance is a complete contrast to 'New Gold'. The atmosphere is darker and intense. Thematically multi-layered, it is a haunting piece of theatre and dance.

I feel that it is about oppression and breaking out of the system, striving towards selfconfidence and the acceptance and understanding of difference. It is about the capacity of the human spirit to change and grow. The beauty of SignDance Collective is that I'm still thinking about what the performance meant to me. I was moved and wanted to see it again, to find another layer of meaning. The dancing is beautiful and full of emotion. The combination of sign and dance makes this performance charged with meaning.

In addition, Dead Days Beyond Help are brilliant. They played a set after the performance of 'Half a Penny'. This is definitely a unique and exciting night out, not to be missed.

'New Gold' and 'Half a Penny' is showing until 29/04/12 at Warehouse Theatre, Croydon

Review courtesy of