Reviewer: Anna Pearce
The Public Reviews Rating:
Upon initially viewing The Place Prize shortlisted artists online, the idea for Mamoru Iriguchi’s ‘One Man Show’ was the most vivid and engaging, and this was the work which opened the evening’s proceedings. It is, as the title suggests, a solo for Iriguchi, accompanied by four projected images of himself and his performance from different audience perspectives in an auditorium. The piece is comical, accessible and cartoonesque, demonstrating good use of multimedia in performance (this being one of Iriguchi’s primary performance media). However, the work lacked momentum and any real movement content, and by the end of the piece when the ‘To be or not to be…’ monologue from Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ had been repeated more times than anyone could care to remember, and the five Iriguchi’s onstage became removed from being ‘as one’ – one drunk, one dressed as a woman, one projected as a ghostly giant on the rear wall, one outlined in clothing on the floor, and one disappeared altogether – it felt that the surreal had well and truly taken over, and any sight of choreographic focus or idea had been completely lost.
Rick Nodine’s ‘Dead Gig’ is focussed indeed, in a nostalgic, reminiscent, almost self-satisfying account of his feelings about and obsession with the band The Grateful Dead. In the second solo of the night, we see short, clipped movement phrases set almost frustratingly to the rhythm of Nodine’s spoken descriptions of the band’s development, and the part they played in his teenage years. Nodine is an extremely engaging performer, and there are moments when he ‘Drops In’, and his passion for the music, demonstrated through undulating, bucking, uninhibited movement becomes almost infectious. This is unfortunately shortlived, and we are then distracted once again from this passionate insight by more spoken accounts, a somewhat contrived movement sequence of falling and rising, and, as the piece ends, an unexpected glitter ball.
Along with Iriguchi’s ‘One Man Show’, the images in Ben Ash (of Dog Kennel Hill Project)’s submission, of heavy, pendulum-swinging dust bags and responsive, momentum–driven movement were memorable images. What we saw, however, was an often disjointed and inaccessible work, with, as was becoming the theme of the night, a disappointing lack of choreographed dance, confined to a shortlived section for Luke Birch.
The notes on The Place Prize website describe how ‘three men strike out resolutely in the direction of great hope.’ This was not a clear train of thought within the work, and although interesting to start with, the unpredictable paths of the dust bags being swung around the head, dropped and fallen beneath, or being flung towards the audience was quickly exhausted. With suggestions of an element of chance directing the progress of the work, much of this piece by three male performers, including Ash himself, was frustratingly inexplicable, and failed to connect with its audience.
In contrast, Hanna Gillgren and Heidi Rustgaard of h2dance began their performance by directly addressing the audience, with a description of what they were going to show us, a ‘Duet’, which is the title of this latest joint offering from Artistic Directors Gillgren and Rustgaard. Clad in sequins and pink lycra, whilst performing a sequence of simple jazz kick-ball-changes and Fosse slides, they continue with their wry exchanges about having been to couples therapy, allowing something of an insight into their personal and professional relationship. The piece goes on to explore each performer’s own experiences of times good and bad, with spoken instructions to the technician about whether the music and lights should be ‘beautiful’, or ‘really dramatic’.
By the end of this evening which had offered much in the way of talking and little in the way of dancing, this became tiresome. Had we seen this clear personal connection developed further through movement exchanges, it would have made for a much more satisfactory end to a rather frustrating semifinal.