“Switch Grindr off before the night begins…”
For all the rainbow flags painted on cheeks at Pride and declarations of being an ally, I don’t straight people can ever really appreciate the extraordinary rush of feeling that comes from going to your first gay club. The excitement, the fear, the sexiness, the strangeness, the sense of community that feels right at your fingertips, the sense of potential isolation equally, precariously close – it can be a most eye-opening, exhilarating experience. It can also be more ambivalent than that.
And it is the complexity of this sensory overload that Alistair Wilkinson captures evocatively in his dance-led devised piece Man-Cub. Trailed as a queer adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, it feels looser than that but Alex Britt’s first-time gay club-goer is our Mowgli and the club is his jungle. And if we don’t get a Baloo (no bears in this gay club!) or a Kaa (joke about being hung like a python redacted), what we do get it a sense of the tribal fervour of the dancefloor. Continue reading “Review: Man-Cub, Etcetera”
Ovalhouse and BraveNewWorlds’ Trinity describes itself as a design-led performance and it does feel more art installation than conventional theatre. And like much of modern art, it benefits from explanation by its creators, captions explaining and connecting the artistic vision behind what might otherwise seem vague and untethered.
So in their words, Trinity “explores the aesthetics of gender and female iconography in society’s visual culture, from pagan and religious artefacts to pop culture’s bedroom selfies”. |In mine, it exploits the visual representation of female roles to stunning effect but decreasing returns, as it offers little more that is tangible. Continue reading “Review: Trinity, The Asylum Peckham”
Truth be told, I don’t review much dance because I don’t feel qualified to comment on it. And because I don’t feel qualified to comment on it, I don’t see much dance…and so the vicious cycle continues. I was able to get a ticket to the last night of Drew McOnie’s re-imagining of Jekyll and Hyde though, it having been recommended to me by several people, but knowing that I wouldn’t be writing about it, I might have had a couple of sherbets pre-show. So aside from saying that I really enjoyed it, I won’t be commenting any more to say that Manuel Harlan took these lovely pics.
Continue reading “Pictures of Jekyll and Hyde, Old Vic”
“Dave hasn’t danced since a disco in Nairobi in 1984”
Do you dread the moment your dad gets up on the dancefloor, or do you celebrate the time being spent together? Do you cringe at the moves he busts out, or give thanks that he’s able to do them? Do you despair at the lack of rhythm that seems to accompany fatherhood, or appreciate the specialness of the beat of his own drum? I think few of us could honestly say we’d answer the latter for any of the above but such questions, and more, lie at the heart of devised dance piece Dad Dancing which encourages us to reconsider.
Created and developed by three dance students looking to engage their fathers in their chosen craft beyond the standard attendance at the end-of-year showcases, this beautifully warm-hearted show has a most beguiling quality. Exploring not only their own relationships with their fathers, who appear alongside them here at the Battersea Arts Centre, they’re helped by a large supporting cast who bring their own father/child experiences to bear. Thus a whole spectrum of experience stands before us, asking what it means to be a son or daughter, to be a father, to be a dancer. Continue reading “Review: Dad Dancing, Battersea Arts Centre”
Truth be told, I am no real fan of dance shows. I do give it the occasional try hither and thither but it is an artform whose charms have largely bypassed me, but I do like to keep trying with things and so I took up the offer from a friend to take in Matthew Bourne’s Play Without Words at the Sadler’s Wells theatre. A 2002 commission for the National Theatre, it is receiving its first revival here as part of the New Adventures’ 25th anniversary celebrations, but though it is undoubtedly a stylish and slick piece of work, I found it to be rather soulless.
Inspired in 1960s British New Wave cinema, it borrows heavily from the 1963 Harold Pinter-scripted The Servant to tell of a well-to-do young man who hires a manservant to run his household but who ends up controlling his life. But what Bourne has done is to double- and sometimes triple-cast the characters so that the story is told with multiple perspectives and the varying possibilities of each scene are explored right in front of us. It’s a clever move and one which offers much opportunity but I couldn’t help but feel that by the end it was overused. Continue reading “Dance Review: Play Without Words, Sadler’s Wells”
Just a quickie, as I don’t really do much dance alongside my theatre-going and so I often struggle to write up these shows cogently, especially when there are so many others who write so well about dance. But I do go occasionally, and quite often it is at Christmas-time as part of a family tradition which is still being observed by me and one, if not the other, of my sisters as we are treated to a Christmas shopping trip, dinner and a show by Aunty Jean. We’ve taken in all sorts over the years, including countless Returns to the Forbidden Planet, a ridiculous Wizard of Oz and a John Rutter concert last year, but often it was to the ballet that we would go and so there’s something innately Christmassy about the ballet for me.
In that respect, Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker is the perfect festive indulgence and in this classic production by Sir Peter Wright, we were given a sumptuous, traditional and gorgeously danced treat. It looks amazing, the sets for the first act just get better and better, I only wish we could spend longer in the section where Clara is shrunk as the giant tree looks magnificent, and the final tableau is goosebump-inducingly beautiful. The snow-goose-related coup de grâce that opens the second act perfectly embodies the kind of magic that feels just right at this time of year and overall, it is easy to see why this is a production that returns year after year. Continue reading “Review: The Nutcracker, Birmingham Royal Ballet at the Birmingham Hippodrome”
“Tu vois, je suis pas un homme
Je suis le roi de l’illusion
Au fond qu’on me pardonne
Je suis le roi, le roi des cons”
I’m not completely opposed to dance shows, but at the same time I very rarely book for them off my own bat. I prefer to go to shows that other people have picked and (hopefully) get swept along by their enthusiasm. Such it was with (Wo)men and me which also allowed me to tick another of my previously unvisited fringe venues, the Blue Elephant in Camberwell, which is another of my new local theatres. That the last dance show my friend had seen was the somewhat controversial and extremely naked Un peu de tendresse bordel de merde! at Sadler’s Wells should have rung an alarm bell for me, but more of that later.
(Wo)men and me is a double bill by French performance maker and choreographer Tonny A ostensibly exploring androgyny and psychological identity. Or to my untrained eye, it was men dancing in pants, or at least once it got started. The first piece, AR-men, a duet between Nick Smith and Jean Magnard, took a long time to break out of the set-up for the concept. The two men in boxer shorts lay under a giant plastic sheet as a video played, a prison-guard type figure then ordered them to move around and finished by taping their bodies to the floor as another video played which began to stretch the patience. But once the business of actual dancing started, Smith and Magnard slowly breaking free, discovering their bodies and ultimately each other, I rather enjoyed the exploration of masculinity, suggesting a fast track through evolution through to a celebration of gay love. Continue reading “Review: (Wo)men and me, Blue Elephant”
“Temazepam. 10mg. Insomnia. Number 505.”
Side Effects, a piece of dance-theatre by dANTE OR dIE at Rich Mix in Bethnal Green, was inspired by a British Museum exhibition which reckoned that the average British person will take around 14,000 pills in their lifetime. Devised and performed by a team of five, under Daphna Attias’ direction, it delves into personal history to reveal the social context behind the increased part that medicine now plays in our lives as well as its more expected curative role.
The beauty of this concept and the way it is executed by a company with ages ranging from 20 to 75, is that almost everyone can relate to it somehow and as so many of the people involved in the production have medical backgrounds, it is rooted in a strong understanding of the issues. For me it was the treats after trips to the hospital that resonated most, I am remember always having a special meal waiting for me each time after a series of operations as a boy and so therefore it was Terry O’Donovan’s performance of his ‘list’ of ailments and maladies leavened with his enlightening stories that moved me the most.
But Simon Rice’s middle-aged insomniac husband was persuasive, clinging onto shreds of vanity, posing in the mirror; Laure Bachelot was wryly amusing in her taking of the Pill; Antigone Avdi powerfully moving as a menopausal mother and Betsy Field distressingly frank about how dependent the elderly can become on a series of medications. Each performer managed to tell their own stories well, but there was real beauty in seeing how they interacted together: the casual nonchalance of a long-married couple, the heady sexual passion of young adults in love, the tenderness of a middle-aged woman caring for her ailing mother and all three women in the family just coming together for the sake of it.
Being given a little cup full of pills (they are actually sweets) as we left the studio was a brilliant little touch, it meant we all left with a smile but also harks back to those childhood memories although I personally would have liked a sticker with a smiley face too! Thought-provoking in the way it probes our reliance on medicine, drawing on connections we can all make and informative on just what to take for a whole range of things: I could have done with an extended dose of it.
Running time: 60 minutes (without interval)
Programme cost: free cast/info sheet available
Booking until 13th February