Top Me Up – Revisit

Top Me Up is a two woman night on the town binge drink show celebrating the freedom and opportunity for reckless abandonment inherent in being a childless and comparatively care free young adult.

Created in collaboration with dance artist Chloe Bishop in 2013, the work emerged through our friendship, a mutual interest in unconventional storytelling and a passion for work that is personal, slightly peculiar and charmingly uncensored.

It was created out of a response to various conversations regarding friends who were either pregnant, had children, or were having more children (which at the age of 23 we were both horrified by). 

We first performed the piece at a night hosted by the Non Applicables at the Brighton Fringe Festival in 2013 before being selected by Drunken Chorus in 2015 for development support and with mentoring by artist Nic Green as part of the Drunken Nights IV series. It was a fun but blurry time!

Top Me Up performance at Drunken Nights event hosted by Drunken Chorus. Photography by Sheena Holiday

The show is about binge drinking, friendship and having a great time. It’s also about rejecting the societal pressures telling you, as a woman in your 20’s and early 30’s to have children. Performed in a pub, it is a show that verges on becoming a night out.

Me and Chloe met on a ‘house hunt speed dating’ day at Northern School of Contemporary Dance in 2008. We lived together and spent a lot of time in the giddy celebration of nights out and the self-reflective sorrowful hangovers that follow. Our experiences from this year and our friendship since, I’m reminded of in the two female lead characters in Emma Jane Hunsworth’s novel ‘Animals’ which I’m reading at the moment.

Maybe we made this piece as a way for us to have another night out? A reason for me to get down to Brighton and Chloe up to Sheffield. This show is the pre drinks to our night out that always inevitably followed. 6 hours after the last time we performed this show we got thrown out of a kebab shop on West Street in Sheffield. Classy.

Top Me Up performance at Drunken Nights event hosted by Drunken Chorus. Photography by Sheena Holiday

Sharing these images and writing this blog has got me reminiscing about how we made this show. Part in person, part skype it always felt like an adrenaline fuelled sprint. Maybe that was the booze? Because of lack of funds and us living in Brighton and Sheffield, any money we spent on train fare (who am I kidding, mega bus) had to feel justified and worth it. What a pressure! There’s a reason artistic practices need funding…

Still, what we created with the pennies we had we were really proud of:

“Thought provoking, but more importantly hilarious – two women weighing up motherhood while having a night out with friends featured live drinking, excellent contemporary dance & a rain of condoms being thrown into the audience” – The State Of The Arts

We did plan to apply for funding and develop the work into a full length show but Chloe moved to New Zealand. BUT. This pandemic thing makes geography irrelevant, right? We created on skype once, surely zoom would suffice now?? And maybe create an online show???

Oh wait, the 11 hour time difference. Wine for breakfast anyone?

Top Me Up performance at Drunken Nights event hosted by Drunken Chorus. Photography by Sheena Holiday

Remembering this work has made me want to remember all of it, the whole process. I never thought I’d share the below photos and video. They’ve been buried away on my hard drive never to see the light of day, but here we go.  

Before our first performance of Top Me Up at the Brighton Fringe, we needed an image to promote the work. So we headed to my parent’s local before they opened (a friend of mine worked there) with a photographer and filmmaker (the pot washer at Strada restaurant where I was working at the time) for a little photo shoot.

The video in particular makes me chuckle. The fake ‘ooing’ and ‘rring’ as we pour ourselves a glass of ribena. Yum. I think the close up of the fire at the start is pivotal too. And don’t get me started on the song choice!

Watching this back now is nostalgic – we were so young! And had so much to learn. (And maybe because it’s in a pub?!)

One of our main concerns making this show was whether we’d be able to drink a bottle of wine in 15 minutes. It was a time pressure that informed the whole structure of the piece. Each section needed drinkography, or space at the start / end of each section for drinking.

We practised on skype by timing ourselves drinking half a bottle of wine whilst marking through the choreography. It was a challenge but do-able. I was surprised, it was only rose after all. We gave ourselves a good 15 seconds at the end of the show to down whatever we had left but knew we didn’t want to rely on this by having too much to finish so it was important we spaced our drinking out accordingly. Gipping on stage was not part of the plan.

When we developed the piece from 15 to 25 minutes, it was a natural progression to drink a bottle each than share. Top Me Up we said!

Drinking 1 bottle in almost half an hour wasn’t a big enough challenge and didn’t have the same level of adrenaline, excitement (and panic) that drove the piece. Surprise surprise 2 bottles was twice the challenge! High gip alert. The extra 10 minutes was barely a blink because we fitted so much content in. So we used some of the wine to add to our baking mixture in the housewives section. A teeny tiny short cut but absolutely necessary.

Here’s all the different ways we drank plus our trailer from the first show in 2013:

I’ve really enjoyed writing this blog post. It’s been fun to remember and reminisce. I read the blog up til now to Chloe at the weekend and it got us excited and chatting about the work. There’s always been a little niggle for us with this piece, some unfinished business. We both said how we want to revisit it so that’s it, we decided on saturday, we will!

To finish, I’ll share how we picked our name Lascelles Dance. 

Lascelles (la – sells) terrace is the name of the road we lived on in Leeds. Not particularly imaginative but it felt right to pay homage to the place where we started.

12, Lascelles Terrace is where our friendship began, sitting at the top of the stairs outside our bedrooms talking about our lives, dreams, hopes and ambitions, making each other laugh and feel better after a shitty day at college staring at ourselves in the mirror, head to foot in leotard and tights… It’s where the nights out into town began and the nights in (usually after a night out) were full of chats, laughter and an episode or 2 of sex and the city. Here’s some more pics of the show plus a few from the Lascelles Terrace days 💖