Should heightism be taken more seriously? This is the topic Jack AG Britton (5ft 4 and ¾) explores in Mighty, on now at the Vault Festival; and so Phoenix Remix sent its shortest (4ft 11) and tallest (6ft 1) reviewers along in tandem to find out.
As a special 2-4-1 offer, we offer you first Louise, and then James’ takes on the show.
Amid a backdrop of beatbox, spoken-word and live looping, Jack Britton merges his personal experiences of height discrimination, with concerning information about how dangerously insidious heightism is within society.
Britton opens the show with a playful repetition of ‘sit at the front’ that floats towards the audience via a loop pedal as they enter the intimate space. Britton is immediately likeable and puts the audience at ease, if a little unsure of himself.
His use of audience interaction is effective – offering the audience to partake in the live looping as part of a rollercoaster ride, was a delight to experience. Although his ‘off the cuff’ quips and asides seem to derail his train of thought quickly, which makes the show seem a little under rehearsed.
The challenge Britton sets himself to create all sound live on stage is impressive. At times however, this choice veers towards being an obstacle rather than the most effective story-telling device. Britton tries desperately to catch up with his equipment and doesn’t always seem in control of his material, or his loop pedal, that he relies heavily upon throughout the production.
When Britton is freed from his tech table and mic and uses the entire space, his authenticity and humanness is innately poignant and effective, there is nothing to hide behind and that is when he really shines. Equally, his personal stories were often the most engaging. The energy dipped halfway through when Britton began to use facts to tell the story. This is not helped by the lack of a story arc or clear narrative, and the story becomes a series of anecdotes interspersed with statistics and interviews.
Britton has a mesmerising singing voice, yet there seems no vital reason as to why every piece is delivered through a loop system, rather than playing the sound and interviews through the main speakers – apart from that it was a bit cool. If he had spent more time developing the narrative and less on learning his own tech cues, this show would have been five stars and perhaps there would have been more time to explore the fascinating content in more depth.
Audiences will come away having learnt something in an engaging way, I would definitely recommend this intelligent and important show to anyone, whether they have personally experienced the issues the show explores, or not.
We arrived in the Crypt to find a nice young man encouraging us to sit in the front row via a prerecorded loop on his synth. We do so, because one must always obey the disembodied robot voice.
We soon learn that live looping is a crucial element of the show, as Britton uses the technique to produce beats for his raps, harmonies for his songs, and trip hop atmospherics for his Ted Talk style mini-lectures.
As already established, Britton is pretty short. Always has been. Too short for his favourite rollercoasters. Short enough as a kid to be zipped into sports bags in order to leap out and surprise passers by. He knows there are other bigotries and hatreds more important than anti-short prejudice, but – as he puts it – there are already loads of great shows about them.
MIGHTY is a mish mash. It starts off as comedy, shoots off towards being a musical, then for a slightly draggy mid section it becomes an info dump. Tinder data, horrific American medical procedures with horrifying side effects, really silly Australian adverts for platform shoes: all help paint a picture of a world where being short limits your ability to reach the top (no pun intended), meet that special someone, or drive in Russia.
Though informative, I would have loved a narrative arc built even more around the backbone of Britton’s own twenty eight years of being short. Self deprecating and full of puns, he comes alive when unspooling his own experiences, interacting with the audience or making a very tall man (taller than me – the bastard) come on stage and form a charming dialogue of height related issues.
Echoing Louisa, I also felt the loop system limited the performer’s natural exuberance, trapped as he often was within a few metres of his tech table. That said, it was the first night, and I’m pretty sure he’ll get better at pushing the buttons.
But what about the audiences’ buttons? I’d say Brittain poked them pretty well, and bearing in mind we saw him on opening night, I suspect his performing confidence will grow and grow (no pun intended).
And unlike the rides of Drayton Manor Park, Mighty has no minimum or maximum height requirement.
Mighty is on as part of Vault Festival 2020 4-9 Feb at 18:00 in The Crypt
RATING: ***’ 3 ½ stars