Music: Hofesh Shechter
Choreographer: Hofesh Shechter
Reviewer: Jo Beggs
A line of dancers appear, backlit on a smoky stage. Their slow, deliberate and immaculately coordinated movement, with the backdrop thudding drumbeat, is both beautiful and unsettling. In the first of a three short acts (The Entrance), eight clowns create tightly synchronised movement, sharply composed tableaux and joyful prancing. Then things start to turn a little dark. Dancers fall to the floor, and out of synch, individuals begin to subtly turn on their tribe.
It’s hard to tell at what point the tide really turns and the second act (Clowns) begins, but before long we’re witnessing a truly carnivalesque scene, fleeting acts of lust and violence, fitful dancing and a pounding soundtrack. Then it happens again, a further twist into a state of anarchy, where the passion is palpable and the violence is downright gruesome. Sliced throats, shots to the head, hangings and electrocutions. A series of ritualistic killings played out with grisly realism, but like all clowns, whatever happens they get back up again and keep entertaining the crowd.
This is Shechter II, the company’s apprentice dancers, aged between 18 and 25. But the b-team they are not. If this is the future of the company, then it’s in pretty good shape. Shechter’s chorography and the dancers’ delivery of this hour-long, intense and frenetic work is flawless. When they move together they are a single entity, when apart they are multi-dimensional characters. There’s a short solo by a male dancer – a tormented fight with inner demons – but the entire company are pretty much always on stage, never getting a moment of respite, never missing a beat.
The whole thing looks fantastic, a simple set with a red velvet backdrop and strings of white lights, lots of smoke and a tremendous lighting design by Lee Curran and Richard Godin that pulls everything dramatically together. Christina Cunningham’s wonderfully theatrical, eclectic costumes add much to the visual richness of the piece, and, with Shechter’s music (which draws on Corelli’ s Concerto in G Major and Shin Joong Hyun’s ‘psychedlic rock sound’), the whole thing comes together into a beautifully visual, aural and visceral treat.
The third act (Exit) is the longest and most entertaining curtain call you’re ever likely to see. Like those ‘here’s a reminder of all the best bits’ film end-titles, the company give us an encore of key moments – and some particularly brutal killings – from the show. There’s a delicious sense of not quite knowing what’s really the end as they keep coming back for more.
Shechter and the company have made a remarkably fresh and unusual work that plays with the conventions of dance, theatre, gig and film, of comedy, carnival and horror, and have made something hugely entertaining and memorable.
Runs until 3 November 2018 | Image: Rahi Rezvani