Shows are returning, finally, and at the Oxford Playhouse, Rambert 2, ambitious young sibling to the famed dance company, has landed with a crash and a bang.
The opener, Home, is set in a dark stage, simultaneously huge and claustrophobic. Home as a trap, home as a horror, home as something to batter and bash against. Entrances and exits are marked red for danger. The dancers are locked in, perhaps locked down. They bash fitfully against a relentless beat peppered with deep, dark bass and scratchy vocals and samples. Fretful restless motion somehow communicates perfectly the exhaustion of staying still. The dancers bark and grimace, holding the tension, stretching it, pushing for a nightmarish glory. Jonathan Wade spins and flips as if gravity is optional. Verity Wright holds a vibrant, trembling distress. The effect is sparse yet sumptuous; unsettling yet insistently alive.
The wildly varied physicality that is one of Rambert’s great joys is in full force here, each dancer a superb individual, dancing together, falling apart. Micaela Taylor’s choreography throws wild shapes and expressions across the stage. The dancers whirl like trapped moths, battering against the stage edges. It’s mesmerising.
The second dance, Killer Pig, is a mind-blowing sweat drenched endurance masterpiece, with stamping, contorting, grimacing dancers driving the action forward to a relentless hypnotic, unescapable beat. A wild rite of some machine age spring, where every dancer gets to explore and express and fight to the front. A through exploration of contortion from Caiti? Carpenter is astonishing. Loïc Ayme defies gravity. Sharon Eyal’s choreography smashes the stage into some phenomenal factory floor catwalk, where the dancers smash it again and again. Ori Lichtik’s crashing beats drive the action forward, onward. The stamping, whirling wild climax ends with a suddenness that leaves the audience bereft, astonished and utterly entertained.