Review: Company Chameleon - Beauty Of The Beast – The Place

Performance: 18 November 2014
Reviewed by Siobhan Murphy - Wednesday 19 November 2014

Company Chameleon 'The Beauty of the Beast'. Photo: Brian Slater

Masculinity is being explored through dance with increasing enthusiasm, it seems, and The Lowry’s resident artists Company Chameleon takes on that challenge with particular gusto.

Their new full-length work Beauty Of The Beast mines the themes of modern male identity and male group dynamics with a mix of humour and pathos, emphasising how the struggle to express yourself as an individual and the struggle to fit in can often be strikingly at odds with each other.

Choreographer and co-artistic director Anthony Missen steers this blend of theatre and dance with assurance to create a patchwork of scenarios that revolve around the idea of belonging. He takes the role of gang leader, demanding compliance from Eryck Brahmania and Thomasin Gulgec’s wannabe members, although the initiation rites they must complete are an amusing subversion of typical tasks (singing, gurning, reciting odes to nature, gently rolling a ball back and forth).

The newly minted gang of six then veer between aggressive football chanting and group harmonies; standing defiantly eyeballing the audience with their hands down their trousers and adopting prayer prostrations. They switch effectively through moods, from menacing to goofy to angst-ridden to contemplative, charging the unadorned stage space with meaning, whether they are showing the exhilaration of camaraderie or the fear created by overt hostility (and helped in this by a well-thought-out soundscape of original music and everything from Bach to Sizzla).

Missen’s choreography offers raucous statement: an ‘evolution of man’ tableau (set to blustering hip hop), for instance, that ends with the sight of him decked out in bling and taking the low-slung pants fad to its logical conclusion by standing with his trousers round his knees; the chimpanzee howls from the group when Gulgec’s quiet character is ostracised; Lee Clayden devolving from swaggering owner of two ‘attack dogs’ to being indistinguishable from them as Rage Against The Machine’s Killing In The Name blares out.

But woven inextricably into these displays of braggadocio and the baser, mercurial side of male interaction are threads of intense vulnerability expressed through subtle movement, including a particularly powerful duet from Clayden and Brahmania juxtaposing need and rejection, aggression and submission. Clayden’s closing solo sees him stripped to his underpants and held in four unforgiving spotlights, frantically reeling through physical exertions and unravelling before our eyes, until, spent, he quietly puts on the suit he’s handed by Missen. Is he accepting the relief of a position in an imposed social order, or has all the spark been crushed out of him? It’s an arrestingly ambiguous note on which to end.

Company Chameleon are touring, with dates in Leeds, Liverpool and Salisbury before the end of November
Venues & dates:
www.companychameleon.com

Photos: Brian Slater



Siobhan Murphy is a freelance writer and until recently was Arts Editor of Metro. She also writes for Dancetabs. Find her on Twitter @blacktigerlily

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