Taken as a series of vignettes involving jittery body-popping from the dancers, innovative electronic music from the likes of Scanner and the redoubtable Aphex Twin and a variety of spoken texts, this was an entertaining and accessible evening of dance. The programme, however, seemed to want us to view it as a unified ‘full-length work’, which I just didn’t get at all.
Perhaps one of the reasons for this was the unevenness of the pieces. Some of it worked beautifully - mention must be made of Carly Best’s exhilarating opening solo and the quasi-classical Raymond Carver-inspired duet ‘Sink or Swim’, danced by Lilou Robert and Chris Rook. The Oxford Youth Dance Company’s post-interval contribution was well-constructed and well-performed. Some parts, however, were less successful.
Much had been made of the contribution of the late Anthony Minghella to the evening’s work. I didn’t like ‘Self Assembly’ for many of the reasons that I have never liked any of his work – facile, slightly forced and approximately one tenth as profound as it clearly thought it was, his mildly witty conceit was stretched far too thinly for anyone’s good, and made for a flat ending to the evening.
‘Stirrings Still’, an attempt to make ballet out of Beckett, was equally problematic. To embellish a Beckett text – with its relentless inwardness and stilled despair – with anything at all, let alone dance, was unwise. To embellish a late Beckett text, in which all of these attributes are magnified a thousandfold, was frankly mental. Left with an impossible task the choreographer was forced into the uninspired route of literality, having Chris Evans (who did, however, show an impressive subtlety in this and other pieces) mirror exactly the movements described in the text.
A brief mention, to finish, of Dexter Fletcher. He read well enough, but the decision to have the final text read out by the recorded voice of Minghella himself gave the lie to his presence. He didn’t interact with the dancers at all, and could have been equally absent. This cheapened the whole thing – as though the audience couldn’t be trusted to sit through 90 minutes of modern dance without the comforting presence of someone from the telly.