Review: Company Chameleon - Springloaded at The Place

Performance: 25 & 26 May 2012
Reviewed by Misa Brzezicki - Tuesday 29 May 2012

Reviewed: 25 May

Gameshow is an entertaining if generic exploration of society’s obsession with aspiration, exposure and reward. It’s the creation of Anthony Missen and Kevin Edward Turner, aka Company Chameleon. This duo certainly can’t be accused of being workshy; in addition to choreographing and performing, they’ve turned their hands to scriptwriting, acting and film for this production.

First and foremost though, they are fantastically gifted dancers. As monstrously slimy Gameshow host J.O.Z, Kevin Edward Turner winks, high-kicks and razzle-dazzles us all. His committed performance is the lynchpin of the work, a character much more clearly drawn than Anthony Missen’s shy contestant Dave. The only inkling of what drove his character came through some rather clunky images of yearning in his introductory solo; he pushes at an imaginary ceiling, reaches out for something, starts running but goes nowhere. Missen’s fluidly acrobatic ease was a joy to watch, but didn’t bring the aspiring everyman to life. It was when they worked in tandem that they truly shone, duets providing some of the works’ high points. From a tango-influenced seduction to a final, desperate battle of wills, they were bold yet polished, showing the kind of rapport that is built over years of collaboration.

J.O.Z is a nightmarish amalgam of every entertainer and Saturday night host you’ve ever encountered – the joke being that this creation is barely removed from the real deal. Through a combination of sinister manipulation and Rocky-style training montage, he took Dave on a crash course in entertainment hosting; jazz hands, showgirl struts and ‘Hi Mum!’ waves, eventually beating him into a version of himself, complete with lurid green shirt (though sadly, he didn’t get a similar bouffant hairpiece).

It’s all about the desire for recognition without skill that pervades our culture, and most sane people’s baffled attitude to this. JOZ’s insistent demand ‘Why do you want to be on TV?’ and the often humiliating tasks Dave is subjected to aren’t exactly a subtle comment on what drives society, but they get the message across. ‘Get Money’ was literally that, trying to grab a bundle of notes from the host, but the final filmed task, where Dave had to find ten people willing to hug him and tell him that they loved him, was both comic – the dramatic falls at people’s feet to get their attention – and poignant – the cold shoulder he frequently received. His reassurance that ‘you don’t have to mean it’ underlined the whole point – success, whether in Gameshow or real life, may come at the cost of truth but for most of us it’s no big deal either way.

Filmed adverts were used for commercial breaks in the show, which were well executed, and often very funny – especially a spot-on advert for an aftershave called ‘Messiah’. Other parts felt irrelevant though, and there were some wince enducing shots at political commentary, especially a pointless advert for a Bush vs Bin Laden pay-per-view showdown that was more bizarre than anything. When they stuck to social and cultural observation they steered closer to the mark; ‘Rap Challenge’, where Dave improvised a riff on the Lord’s Prayer, neatly took off last year’s riots with its plea to ‘Lead us not into Curry’s or Gregg’s’. A sequence giving an insight into J.O.Z’s private persona, and his relationship with an ambiguous female figure felt unnecessary, given Johnson’s nuanced performance: we’d seen the mask slip several times already, and were under no illusions about his megalomaniac cruelty.

Chameleon haven’t exactly broken any boundaries here, nor really answered the questions they set. Ultimately Dave walks away from the world that seduced him, but there was no moment of epiphany, no clear sense of what broke the spell. The satire may have been a tad mild, but the work’s accessibility and ambition deserve recognition. With a sense of taking stock of where and how society is, it was an undeniably impressive showcase for the duo’s talents.

Misa Brzezicki took part in this year’s Resolution! Review – The Place’s online magazine which includes reviews of every Resolution! show, by professional dance critics and aspiring writers. She is a freelance dance artist, based in London.

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