Getting Dressed, Sadler’s Wells Lilian Baylis Studio, London ★★★★½

Originally reviewed for The Reviews Hub:

Anyone who had a dressing up box as a child will know the feeling of pleasure to be gained from putting on ridiculously oversized clothes and just mucking about. It’s that feeling of joyous playfulness that is at the heart of Second Hand Dance’s family show.

Starting in their underwear, three dancers – Darragh Butterworth, Keir Patrick and Ellen Slatkin – initially scramble to get dressed from a variety of outfits laid out in front of them. There is a pleasing sense of freedom from gender stereotype here, the adult dancers picking whatever items give them the biggest sense of fun. Tweed skirts on men, boxer shorts on women – it is the childish glee that matters here.

And that sense of fun continues throughout. If some sequences feel a bit less precise than they could be – a sequence with Butterworth literally jumping into clothes sees him miss more often than he succeeds, for example – that is only because of a sense of looseness and informality that adds to the performers’ appeal.

Dancing to a series of electronic compositions by James Marples and Amir Shoenfold that might remind adults of a certain age of The Art of Noise at their best, the trio find as much pleasure pirouetting in billowing skirts as they do from placing legs through the arms of jackets, or trying on a bewildering array of hats.

One of the standout sequences involves a long red scarf, which is worn in a variety of ways in a series of quickfire changes. From courtly sash to sari, sarong, headscarf and even superhero cape, it is this perhaps this sequence above all others that demonstrates the adaptability and versatility of fabric, and that imagination and fun can be transformative.

After an all too brief three-quarters of an hour of structured dance, the children in the audience are invited to join in with a “stay and play” session. But even without sticking around for this, one has been treated to the sort of playtime that would make even the oldest and most cynical of grown-ups regress to a childhood of play.