★★ Trainers… at Gate Theatre – Review
We begin March with a slightly bizarre trip to Notting Hill:
Trainers or ‘TRAINERS, Or The Brutal Unpleasant Atmosphere Of This Most Disagreeable Season’ to give the show it’s rather pompous full name is a complicated beast. The ‘piece’ (which is what the work was described as in the first 2 minutes) was almost unashamedly pretentious, more a confusing conceptual art piece than a scripted theatre show. The nod to Michel de Montaigne’s essay style eluded most of us uncultured swine and the abstract academic concept did jar with the wry humour and humanity in the show.
The skillful performers Nando Messias, whose effortless camp charm is infectious and more butch Nicki Hobday, explore queer love and non-binary bodies with a manic energy. They use repetition and uncomfortable actions like swallowing coffee granules or endurance tasks like hanging from a metal bar to explore a strange relationship between the writer of the piece and their boyfriend Steven. The narrative supposedly charted a post-gender world always at civil war but this came more from the blurb than the show itself.
There are electric moments of chaos, including a ceiling-shaking sound and light scape. This really livens things up in the latter part of the show with blue and yellow pulsating sheets of light and coming to an ominous crescendo. A section all delivered in yellow light bleaching out any colour channels Olafur Eliasson’s Room for one colour and is visually stunning.
Not quite performance art, experimental theatre or a gallery installation but a mix of all three that does not quite make a whole. The show is visually interesting but the text could be shorter with more clarity of meaning.