Views and reviews

Publicity shot for Hortulum tenebrum. Photo Andrew Barker.

Publicity shot for Hortulum tenebrum. Photo Andrew Barker.

The Five Andrews : a view by Steven Whinnery

Shot through with a delightful dry humour, and a certain wackiness/barminess, I detect elements of Masonic ritual and even Morris dancing in their strange and beguiling shows.

The logo for the Five Andrews: a man with a palm tree growing out of his head, first seen on the poster for an early show, 'Chaotic Behaviour', for me, encapsulates the offbeat, eccentric, and distinct Englishness of their work, which I could best describe as a sort of Anglicized Butoh... with good manners.

At turns odd and strangely moving, they pattern the stage in their trademark costumes: vaguely androgynous dresses that hint at a suburban cult of off beat and exotic transvestism.

A performance style that could so easily descend into gaucheness is subtlety side stepped through the simplicity and grace of the movement and the delicious sumptuous designs of Andrew Barker.

The Five Andrews are non-professional in that they do not earn their living doing what they do. They are amateur - in the true sense, as athletics used to be.

They are, or have been, physics teachers, computer programmers, and graphic artists, all stalwart and respectable professions of the late 20th century, counterparts of the suburban professions of the 50's and 60's, bank managers, accountants. In their secret lives they are performance artists.

One can see The Five Andrews developing like a movement, along the lines of the Iron John men's groups of the early 90's who went into the woods, beat drums and tried to connect with their primal masculinity.

Only in this alternative movement, men who found that they didn¹t fit into the conventional mould, would don rubber dresses and wigs, jump up and down, slapping their thighs, thereby joining in brotherhood with the Original Five Andrews - English Gents of the 21st Century - New Men proud to display their feminine side, unabashed in their non-gender specific costumes.

Theirs is a world of benign magic, of sorcery if you like. Their sporadic and highly crafted performances, as much ritual as anything else, are by turns, charming, stately, measured, elegant and perplexing.

One can envisage them in 30 or 40 years time, elderly statesmen of performance, still plying their trade with the self same grace, elegance, charm and humour at the state opening of parliament on some distant and highly evolved planet, - revered and prized like sumo wrestlers, their priest-like presence propitiating good luck and vibrant orderliness - to retire after several aeons to some mountain fast to lead quiet, pared down, secluded lives, the better to emanate their brand of harmony, peace and of course good taste.

May the force be with you.

© Steven Whinnery, June 2003

The Garden of Wrong

Place Theatre Sat 11 Feb 2006

From The Place website reviews page

Constantina Markides
There must have been something right in The Garden of Wrong, otherwise the audience wouldn’t have been as engaged as it was, watching four middle-aged men demurely exploring how it is to be a bird. With minimal movement and a birdsong soundscore, the amazingly straight-faced performers picked dirt from the floor with their feet and moved with slow deliberation to an incomprehensible text. Watching this surreally humorous quartet, I couldn’t help but wonder which of us came from a different planet.

Ben Felsenburg
And so to The Five Andrew’s very particular brand of pin-head weirdness. There’s a take-it-or-leave-it pleasure to be found in their elegantly esoteric aesthetic and mumbling nonsense humour. In The Garden of Wrong the company’s quartet of strange creatures was observed in their natural habitat on a brush-wood square. For some a welcome glimpse of this rare species; I saw a joke very, very slowly wearing thin.



Some Unforeseen Eventualities

The Place, 2 June 2004 (Sicut, Sprue and Mem.)

From Evening Standard - Sarah Frater
ARE The Five Andrews having a laugh?
Half of you thinks they must be, because the troupe take themselves too seriously to be, well, taken seriously.

Their show is mind-numbingly earnest (think Gary Newman), with deadpan, butoh-inspired movement that's more a series of random hops and jumps, followed by lying down and looking intent, than choreographic light and shade.

Add to that gnomic mutterings and stridently quirky sets and costumes (space-age mesh dresses, a bucket of lemons), and you assume the whole thing is a send-up, especially as there are only four in The Five Andrews, and just two of them are called Andrew.

It is possible that The Andrews are for real, but either way, the three-part evening was too deliberately obtuse, too self-consciously cryptic, to be satisfying theatre.

Sections also felt old-fashioned, as did the costumes and staging, which included one of The Andrews knitting while the other three posed and side-stepped the self-propelling black tennis balls that whirred around the stage.

Two live-action sections sandwiched a short film with The Andrews in a garden and growing like plants.
This raised a genuine laugh, and momentarily the audience joined the troupe rather than tagging along at a baffled distance.

Copyright 2004 Associated Newspapers Ltd.


From Sunday Express - Jeffery Taylor

THEY'LL hate me for saying it, but there is a whiff of D-Day about The Five Andrews.
Andrew Barker, Andrew Downs, Charlie Meyrick and Nic Sandiland reek of a past era when gay men were outlawed, and flaunting it was just not the thing. Outrageous urges such as cross-dressing and camping it up were tastefully indulged in discreet gatherings at private do's, just
like Sicut, their first offering.

In white skirts, they unbandage themselves like Egyptian mummies coming out to play and set about sending up themselves, and their pompous contemporary dance brethren - but all in the best possible taste.

You fear the worst, as a solemn ritual builds in tension towards what seems serious mutilation, or at least castration, then it transforms into one of those odious plastic pecking birds perched on a Martini glass.

In black PVC butcher's aprons, the lads cavort to a soundtrack of a chainsaw - or perhaps a gay martyr frying on the electric chair.

A couple of buckets prominently positioned - one full of lemons, the other of water - and a row of kitchen knives are left untouched, perhaps wisely.

In Mem, a master in goatskin sits knitting as his three slaves in black lace with blue cushions on their heads act out scenes of controlled madness.

To watch a group of adult fellow humans blissfully lost in an esoteric haze, with no sense of mission or assertion of human rights, is somehow refreshing, though some angry audience members did stamp out in noisy dudgeon.

The Five Andrews have nothing to do with anything but their own delicious, inoffensive stream of consciousness, like James Joyce's Ulysses read out loud by five-year-olds.

But whether programmed zombies or Bedlam's craziest inmates, tongues, naturally, are firmly in cheeks - though as Mae West might have said in 1944, nature has nothing to do with it.


Theirs is a world of benign magic, of sorcery if you like. Their sporadic and highly crafted performances...are by turns, charming, stately, measured, elegant and perplexing.
— Steven Whinnery, performance artist