Don’t stop, make it pop

Laila Banerjee reviews theatrical production WAKE by THISISPOPBABY at the National Stadium

THISPOPBABY recently released WAKE, and trust me; there is a lot to unpack here! So wake up, because this isn’t what you’re probably expecting.

I sat in the National Stadium with a Guinness in one hand and my notebook in the other. I was eager to jot down every detail of this compelling theatrical performance before it had even started, and other audience members were also visibly excited. 

The performance started with a traditional Irish song followed by Felicia Olusanya’s relatable poetry, setting the tone for the rest of the performances. She described the importance of appreciating death. She spoke about death in general, whether it be the end of life or a more joyous occasion like the end of the pandemic. In all honesty, I related to this monologue most when she said: “Your clothes still fit, but life doesn’t.” This sentiment exemplifies how we feel most of the time as college students. Life may be fun, but it is not always comfortable. We are changing, but the shift is not necessarily positive. Constantly growing as individuals, we feel the change more dramatically in college. Now and then, she would throw in humour to help lighten the mood a bit.

“Some performances filled the audience with deep introspection, while others reminded us that life is not as severe and it is alright to slow down and enjoy it once in a while”

Right when I was expecting the entire production to be a relatable and maybe a sad eye-opener into my own life, out came a tap dancer impersonating a drunk man who ended his performance in nothing more than underwear. It honestly did take me by surprise. Each scene contrasted with the previous one. Some performances filled the audience with deep introspection, while others reminded us that life is not as severe and it is alright to slow down and enjoy it once in a while. 

This was a showcase of immense talent. From mega-sized balloons on actors’ heads to awe-inspiring aerial performances, each of the performances had a unique twist to it. Lissell Krol’s extremely captivating pole dance routine stunned everyone, while the live band broke the audience into tears. Each performance was accompanied by some fantastic numbers from the 90’s, such as Gala’s “Freed from Desire”.

Duncan Disorderly was a recurring role throughout the drama. He was a young DJ who truly believed in his talent. From the look on every audience member’s face, it is evident that he represented our quirky, hopeful and super enthusiastic thirteen-year-old selves. He was a reminder that there was a time when we did things – or are still doing things – that we may cringe at later in life, but at the time, were the “coolest” thing to us. 

The cast never missed an opportunity to involve the audience members. DJ Duncan Disorderly even invited one to join him on stage for a dinner date. They asked the audience questions and kept everyone on their toes. WAKE helped people realise that we are a community. Including the audience in the act gave everyone a sense of belonging. It is so easy to feel lonely, especially in a world where people may have more friends online than offline and where paying rent or bills consumes us. It allowed people to feel like they were a part of something bigger than themselves. 

“Being an Irish production, how could they forget the GAA jersey?”

Being an Irish production, how could they forget the GAA jersey? One of their performances included an actor stripping his gear while performing an Irish dance. This act was supposed to represent the stripping away of masculinity. It was the perfect way to explain vulnerability. The night ended with the cast and the audience singing traditional Irish songs. The performances outlined themes such as life and death, rebirth, vulnerability and a meeting point between traditional and modern Ireland. 

It was a fun evening, but I would be lying if I said I enjoyed every moment of the show. Still, for the most part, it was riveting. Watching the show with my friend made it even more entertaining;, if you are in college and want some drama in your life, you’ll want to check out what THISPOPBABY does next.