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Motionhouse: Broken – The Lowry, Salford

Artistic Director: Kevin Finnan

Choreography: Kevin Finnan with Claire Benson and the company

Reviewer: Peter Jacobs

Motionhouse - Broken - The Lowry, SalfordMotionhouse are one of the UK’s leading internationally-touring dance theatre companies, specialising in innovative productions that combine extreme physicality with state of the art staging and technology to create a high-octane blend of contemporary dance, aerial theatre and cirque. The company have produced outdoor work on a massive scale – Artistic Director Kevin Finnan was Choreographer and Movement Director for the 2012 Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony – and smaller festival pieces, as well as theatrical works like Broken and previous show Scattered.

Broken investigates man’s symbiotic and often precarious relationship with the Earth, pulling two themes from this and intertwining them through seventy minutes of pure performance: dust to dust and dark to light. The reach of the show is pretty epic, making impressive use of high-quality digital graphics (by Logela Multimedia) projected onto Simon Dormon’s monumental set, which simultaneous acts as screen and vertical stage.

The story hurtles the audience from the creation of the universe from microparticles to the formation of the planet, the creation of life, the ascent of man, right through to the cataclysmic destruction of the modern world through natural events. But it’s not a science lesson. The show creates a series of narrative vignettes that nicely draw the threads together without becoming ponderous. Early creatures become fossils embedded in the rock of the earth, which is shaped by pressure and water and ice and fire and, nearer the surface, roots which lead up to trees and daylight and human occupation.

The light theme explores the relationship between light and life, man’s discovery of light through fire as cave dwellers, how that lead to shadows and wonder, and how man brings and needs artificial light to survive beneath the ground – returning to life below ground as extreme sport – and up to the light-polluted modern world where darkness is forcefully banished. The whole story seems to be gently presided over by beings of light – perhaps the Earth’s Gaia – protecting the planet and silently guarding its troublesome inhabitants.

All this is achieved by means of highly acrobatic and impressive contemporary dance, which draws on elements of circus and aerial theatre but without every going too Cirque de Soleil. The cast – Ariadna Girones Mata, Martina Bussi, Daniel Connor – so impressive in Earthfall’s At Swim Two Boys -, Junior Cunningham, Alasdair Stewart and Rebecca Williams – are uniformly excellent, fearless, committed and distinctive. One of the most impressive things about the show, apart from the display of elegant, gymnastic strength, is the seamless interplay of the cast, the digital projection and the clever set. They hit every mark perfectly, whether performing in front of the screen, becoming part of it, or emerging invisibly – or dramatically – through it. Aerial equipment, handholds, fabric, emerge discreetly through the screen and disappear when no longer needed. Technically the show is complex, demanding, precise and flawlessly executed by both cast and unseen hands. Natasha Chivers lighting design effectively complements the digital work and Sofie Layton’s attractive costumes clothe the performers unfussily.

Broken is an appealing piece of dance theatre. Clean, modern, technically impressive and beautifully performed. There is enough dance content and creative choreography to make it work as a dance piece, and enough acrobatic thrills to entertain people who ‘don’t like dance’. The content is meaningful without attempting to be sentimental or pushing any overt ‘save the planet’ agenda, and the ending is simply thrilling. The two cave sections are perhaps a little overlong, but overall, this is a great show. It literally works on many levels.

Photo: Katja Ogrin |Runs until 29 January

Artistic Director: Kevin Finnan Choreography: Kevin Finnan with Claire Benson and the company Reviewer: Peter Jacobs Motionhouse are one of the UK's leading internationally-touring dance theatre companies, specialising in innovative productions that combine extreme physicality with state of the art staging and technology to create a high-octane blend of contemporary dance, aerial theatre and cirque. The company have produced outdoor work on a massive scale - Artistic Director Kevin Finnan was Choreographer and Movement Director for the 2012 Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony – and smaller festival pieces, as well as theatrical works like Broken and previous show Scattered. Broken investigates…

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