DanceNorth WestReview

The Accountants – Aviva Studios, Manchester

Reviewer: Jo Beggs

Music: Somatic

Director: Keith Khan

There’s a theme emerging at Aviva Studios, home of Factory International. It’s hardly surprising that the company responsible for Manchester International Festival are keen to get the new venue off the ground with some big, bold collaborative productions, but in giving artists what seems to be free rein there’s a disappointing lack of cohesion to what emerges. The opening show, Free Your Mind did everything to showcase the creative possibilities offered up by this extraordinary building, but fell short on both emotional or intellectual weight, and unfortunately the same can be said of The Accountants.

Prior to the show audience data is gathered through a QR code. How far have you travelled? How old are you? How many hours of screen time have you clocked up today? How many cups of tea did you drink? How much, on a scale of one to ten, do you know about India, and about China? Some clever technology crunches all this data and turns it into headache-inducing graphics, flashing up at an impossible to read pace on a huge screen at the back of the stage. A huge phone screen hangs on either side with yet more questions texted between them.

Two dance companies – Terence Lewis Contemporary Dance Company (Mumbai) and Xiexin Dance Theatre (Shanghai) – come together to tell a fragmented story about a young British Asian and his British Indian ‘aunty’ (the unrelated parent’s friend kind rather than the blood relative) and their respective search to understand their own identity. While she follows a more scholarly path of research and reading, he heads off to travel through Asia in the hope that it will all fall seamlessly into place. That’s all we really need to know, but the narrative ploughs on relentlessly with texts and voicemail messages, a complete distraction that is almost disrespectful to the dancers who get lost in the digital frenzy.

It’s a huge relief when, in the second half, the phones go quiet and the big screen rises to reveal the awe-inspiringly deep stage. Now we get to focus on the dancers and the choreography (Terence Lewis, Mahrukh Dumasia, Xie Xin), and despite the cavernous space, they hold the stage with a calm authority. Elements of Chinese and Indian dance blend into the work, echoed by a highly successful mash-up score by Somatic.

It might as well be two separate productions. The over-stimulation of the first half, in fact the first half in its entirety, now seems redundant, and The Accountants is, to some extent, saved by some lovely compelling moments in the second half when everything is stripped back and we get what we came for.

Runs until 11 May 2024

The Reviews Hub Score

lacks cohesion

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The North West team is under the editorship of John McRoberts. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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One Comment

  1. That’s pretty much exactly what I thought when I saw the first preview night on Saturday.

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