The Populars, Volcano Theatre, Swansea

April 3, 2017 by

This was one of the most unusual theatrical experiences I have faced in many years of reviewing.

To be escorted through a building into the performance space, deep inside a former frozen food store, only to find there was no seating and everything happened amongst the watchers.

Paul Davies’ thematic show is a look at a world in turmoil with a mixture of dance and dialogue probing a range of themes from Brexit to sex.

But who or what are The Populars?

In comprehensive school terms the populars tend to be a group of pupils – girls who know their way around Boots cosmetic counter and Next’s clothing rails and boys who are into sport with both groups tending to considering academia a secondary pastime.

Entering the performance space with its bare walls and crumbling ceiling you find four actors in slow moving sinuous and quite provocative movement.

Soon this slow introduction led to pulsating music and far more energetic dancing and all the time the audience were slowing becoming more involved as they were encouraged to move with the performers. At the same time projections on one of the walls supported the dance.

These periods of dance were interspersed with moments of dialogue whether it was animated discussion on a particular topic or trying to bring members of the audience more into the show.

Who is cool or what is cool opened these moments giving the dancers time to recover from their gyrations.





I get the aim of the show, looking at topical issues and trying to make sense of them. Unfortunately there were no conclusions and the theme was only fleeting and quickly forgotten in the face of another routine. Battling over minor issues, the blind leading the blind and challenging people to think came through clearly. There was also a section where European stereotypes were explored and debunked.

The performance lasted 90 minutes and one could only marvel at the stamina and fitness of the performers, Roanna Lewis, Elin Phillips, Neal McWilliams and Rick Yale as they gave their interpretation of the music pulsating around the room.

By the end they had clearly got through to the audience who joined in a mass waltz to the music of Sinatra.

Certainly not traditional theatre and requiring audience stamina!

Until April 8.

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