How You Gonna Live Your Dash

Feb 13 2016 | By More

★★★★☆   Invigorating

Traverse Theatre: Thurs 11 – Sat 13 Feb 2016

Arriving at the Traverse for the last three dates of a small Scottish tour, Jenna Watt’s How You Gonna Live Your Dash is an invigorating, flawed and constantly needling hour of live theatre.

There’s a real danger to the piece. A danger which goes well beyond the protective Health and Safety policies mocked in its opening sequence concerning the use of live pyrotechnics on stage.

Jenna Watt in How You Gonna Live Your Dash. photo Mihaela Bodlovic

Jenna Watt. Photo: Mihaela Bodlovic

The dash under scrutiny by Watt and her conspirator in theatre, Ashley Smith, is the one from the beginning to the end. It is both life, as it is lived, and the small symbol that lies between birth and death.

The weedy pyrotechnics which they are permitted to let off on stage send a spume of multicolour smoke into the air with a sound like a mild but tightly released bout of flatulence. If it was a comic book, it would be accompanied by a Pffft.

These pyrotechnics – and their mode of employment – come to symbolise, somehow, the “how” of that dash. They are the safe, cotton-wool cocooned life, lived without ever experiencing that sick feeling in the stomach when you genuinely have no idea what is going to happen next.

Equally they symbolise the life that is lived in a corporate straightjacket of fatuous motivational epithets, false benchmarks and forced hierarchies.

spume of colour

The emphasis is on the how, of it all; the realisation that the result might be the same, but it is the way you get there that makes the difference.

How You Gonna Live Your Dash. Photo credit Mihaela Bodlovic

How You Gonna Live Your Dash. Photo credit Mihaela Bodlovic

As with much of Watt’s work, there is a durational performance vibe going on. The hiss of a needle stuck in final groove of a still spinning record provides part of the soundtrack. And Watt’s final, wonderfully self-powered spume of colour has a dark edge of transgression to it.

In Ashley Smith – known as PC Jane McKay in the BBC’s comedy Scot Squad – Watt has found a strong foyle to her own ideas. Devised by the pair from Watt’s creation, Smith is every bit Watt’s equal, but brings the extra perspective of a quizzically raised eyebrow.

And if, as a whole piece of performance, it still feels slightly too bitty, the elements all stand up for themselves.  The stories of George and John, whose experience of disappointment provide a narrative strand to the piece are nicely paced.

fearless, transgressive and properly provocative

In the parade of images and ideas, the best come from a series of exercise routines, delivered with the kind of 1950s RP voice which distinguished the BBC with it was affectionately know as Auntie. These trusted tones lead Watt and Smith into sequences that are intriguingly intimate but need to connect more evenly into the whole.

But what ever slight misgivings there might be about structure and whether Watt delivers it with quite the relish it deserves, there is no getting away from the fact that this is fearless, transgressive and properly provocative theatre making.

Running time: 55 minutes (no interval)
Traverse Theatre, 10 Cambridge Street, EH1 2ED
Thursday 11 – Saturday 13 February 2016
Evenings: 8pm.

Tickets and information from (returns only).
How You Gonna Live Your Dash – Facebook event: 962295000511151

Jenna Watt’s website:

Jenna Watt on Twitter: @TheJennaWatt

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