Saturday, 13 February 2010

If I Go On

I went to see the Vincent Dance Company's latest show this week, If We Go On. I'm not a big dance fan - watching it, that is - but have seen (and enjoyed) a show of theirs before and know people, who love dance, who regard the company highly. And there's no puppetry on this season at the Nuffield (my local fabulously reliable theatre of the unexpected) so I needed to plug into something.

So, wary, but curious, I went along.

There were moments of shocking brutality, amazing energy and extraordinary angles: kicking and punching the backdrop so it clattered; using the backdrop as a giant blackboard, scribbling onto it a manic musical score and half-formed but very alive drawn figures; and flickeringly small wrist movements under flickering lights. All mesmerising. Emotive. Invigorating. Playful.

Except the spoken word bits.

The theme of the show was the inability of expression. Or so it seemed. Several characters talked at length of how they didn't have the words needed ... Sheets of paper were thrown across the stage (turning it into a highly choreographed version of a Forced Entertainment set), lights were switched on and off as the self conscious existential angst was repeated over and over.

Oo, it got right under my skin. I'm not an explorer of self-conscious art, nor a practitioner of post-modernism. I'm a traditionalist. A believer in just giving the idea over to an audience. A lover of the illusion of art. Old fashioned. Unsophisticated.

And while I can appreciate other people playing with these perspectives, I get very pernickerty when they use spoken word/poetry within an otherwise physical theatre piece. Maybe I should chill out a bit more, be open to the vagaries of language. After all I use elements of physical theatre in my work which probably gets right under the skin of the dancers in my audience.

Talk is cheap, I remind myself.

Except I can't buy into that. Talk in performance is structured, no matter how improvised it yearns to appear, or how much the devising process was improvisation. It is no longer. It is staged. And it takes something/someone special to disabuse me of that. An unselfconscious stream of consiousness. It took Picasso sixty odd years to reach that point in his art ...

Something to aim for, maybe.

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