DanceReviewSouth West

The Green House / Profundis – Sherman Theatre, Cardiff

Choreographers: Caroline Finn & Roy Assaf

Reviewer: Jacqui Onions

National Dance Company Wales present their latest works in a double bill from two choreographers; The Green House by NDCW’s artistic director, Caroline Finn, and Profundis by Roy Assaf.

The evening begins with Profundis and a simple black box stage with a grey dance floor. The audience is treated to a spine-tingling start, thanks to Omer Sheizaf’s lighting design, as dancers appear from and disappear into the darkness. Combining this with controlled, fluid movement makes for an intriguing and enticing opening but this piece does not really find its identity until the element of spoken word is introduced. This begins, as part of Charlie Knight’s sound design, by sampling Leonard Bernstein’s lecture, What Does Music Mean? From there, the company explore their own meanings, both vocally and physically. Assaf has worked with the company to explore their individual ideas and personalities and these really shine through to make the piece engaging, touching and humorous.

Gradually the ideas and meanings form into tangible stories and narratives. We are even treated to a short story written by dancer, Josef Perou, entitled Story of a Battle & Lovers. This, again, is presented both verbally and physically in a stunning duet that is one of the highlights of the piece.

As time moves on, the need for spoken word disappears as the audience becomes familiar with the ideas and their associated movements. Sequences develop that take their basis from these movements, keeping the control and fluidity that is introduced at the start and runs throughout the piece. The humorous movements from earlier in the piece now become beautiful and intriguing; rather like the feel of the start.

Following Profundis is what feels like it should be the star of the show. Finn is reunited with lighting and set designer, Joe Fletcher, and costume designer, Gabriella Slade – the team behind Finn’s previous success with NDCW, Folk. However, somehow The Green House falls a little short of expectations.

The inspiration behind The Green House is pruning and the things we prune from our lives. This is thrown into the setting of a 1960s television programme set and has a strong theme of outside and inside – perhaps a little too much going on to be completely cohesive.

The set and costume designs marry together brilliantly for great visual effect. Fletcher has created a very green living room, typical of a 1960s sitcom set, filled with intriguing features for the company to interact with; furniture to stand on, a window to climb through and another that’s walled up. Slade has taken the colours of the set and the pattern of the wallpaper and transferred them into the costume design, tying everything together and allowing the cast to blend into the background when required.

It is interesting to see the personalities of the company that we meet in the first piece carrying through to an extent into this, albeit in a darker setting. We meet various characters in a series of solos and duets, with varying degrees of clarity of story. These are all skilfully performed but some feel overly long and slow the pace of the piece. This is a shame considering that The Green House contrasts Profundis, manic and intense compared to the fluidity of the first piece, making these an interesting pairing.

The real strength of both Profundis and The Green House is NDCW’s company of dancers. They all dance with great skill and passion, bringing something of their own personalities and an honesty to their work. Their heartfelt performances are an utter joy to watch.

Reviewed on 28 April 2017 | Image: Mark Douet

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