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Kristen Sieh (Teddy) and Libby King (Elvis)


PHOTO © TRISTRAM KENTON


Written by the TEAM Royal Court Theatre, London Reviewed by Jarlath O’Connell


York theater. You’re at the starting point for this spirited and insight- ful two hander which comes from the Brooklyn based ensemble com- pany TEAM. The company, which is a regular and popular visitor to the Edinburgh Festival, has also had work shown at the National Theatre and the Almeida and is dedicated to making new work about the expe- rience of living in America today. They’ve been perfectly summed up as ‘Gertrude Stein meets MTV’. The ensemble comprises Rachel Chavkin, Libby King, Jake Margolin, Kristen Sieh with Matt Hubbs, Nick Vaughan and Andrew Schneider. Here Chavkin directs and King and Sieh star. RoosevElvis concerns itself with an odd hallucinatory road trip from the Badlands of the Dakotas to Grace- land where the spirits of Theodore Roosevelt and Elvis Presley battle over the soul of Ann (King), a painfully shy meat-processing plant worker. A lonely soul, she is obsessed with Elvis and is often found slouched on the sofa getting stoned in front of Blue


I 58 The American


magine Thelma and Louise crossed with lesbian avant-garde New


RoosevElvis


Hawaii. The object of her aff ection meanwhile, the lively taxidermist Brenda (Sieh), is hooked on Theodore Roosevelt, whom she hilariously per- sonifi es as a sort of cross between Kate Hepburn and a boy scout. As in Thelma and Louise we hit the road with them. It sounds more complex than it is and its theatricality and wry wit redeem it from self-indulgence and delivers a wholly entertaining and illuminating 90 minutes. It has many echoes of Pina Bausch but crucially lacks her all-encompassing singular vision. One might chastise them therefore for having “too many cooks” but that’s the deal, I guess, with TEAM. The performances, polished in


great detail, are sublime, especially the voices. King transmogrifi es from the awkward Ann to the curl-lipped, snake-hipped Elvis. One is deeply touching, the other deliciously sul- try. She captures his androgyny and demonstrates that it was his status as an outsider that attracted her. We forget that the shock of Elvis was as much about his blurring of racial and gender binaries as it was the pure


earthly howl of his music. As for Teddy, his narcissism is so


exhausting you want to say hush. We are reminded that even after tak- ing an attempted assassin’s bullet he kept on speechifying for an hour. Sieh has such fun blending his eff ete, aristocratic and oddly grandmoth- erly airs with his brash love of action, guns and manly outdoor pursuits. A typical wide-eyed exclamation: “Look at all the stars John…..I’m going to memorise them”! The play opens up a wonderful


Pandora’s Box of gender discom- bobulation. Teddy and Elvis are icons but they illuminate a lot about where America has got to now in terms of gender roles and how we navigate the multitudes we all contain. The King karate chops pizza boxes - “I’m gonna need some space baby”, he quips to a nonplussed ASM, whilst Teddy boxes with onscreen bison. Andrew Schneider’s many video creations for the piece are deftly blended with the live action here and enhance rather than drown it out. Selecting these two characters for


joint exploration was a mad proposi- tion but the Team pulls it off .


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