Review: Darren Ellis Dance - Meeting Mr Boom! - Greenwich Dance

Performance: 1 March 2014
Reviewed by Jeffrey Gordon Baker - Tuesday 4 March 2014

'Meeting Mr Boom!' Left to right: Jo Wenger, Gareth Mole, Fay Adams & Michael Spencely

Employing as it does a Teletubby-esque logic in its formal and narrative elements, with a brightly coloured inflatable set and wide-eyed, surprised looking happy clappy characters going on surreal journeys of discovery – Darren Ellis and Ronen Kozokaro’s Meeting Mr Boom! must surely be the product of hours of research in the form of watching pseudo-psychedelic children’s television shows.

A young lady appears marooned on a giant brown slab of rubber and she looks pleasantly perplexed and gestures plaintively for a while until a band of smiley musician/performers wanders by and they all get caught up in a spirited percussive syncopation played out on colourful plastic tubes. The brown slab suddenly blows up to become a bouncy blue island with inflated abstract designs reminiscent of Frank Stella paintings from the ‘70s.

The blow-up fantasy world, designed by Ricardo Pardo was definitely the runaway star of the show. Its startlingly quick inflation, its symbolic and disheartening deflation at the climax of the show and the triumphant re-inflation with the aid of claps and puffs of air solicited from the audience, provided the main narrative turning points. And there were several toddlers that had to be reined in from their attempts to crawl onto the set and have a go themselves, an opportunity which was necessarily afforded to all the children during a ‘playtime’ programmed after the curtain call. There probably would have been a riot otherwise.

Unfortunately it’s hard to remember much of the dance, as its various episodes were like a canon of demonstrations of the properties of the buoyant set – exaggerated falls with boing-y recoveries, lots of cheerful jumps and hops. Some playful unison steps were entertaining here and there. There were some cute arrangements of colourful shapes and people into animals and objects, acting out whimsical little scenes, but the choreography itself was no more challenging than what you would expect from the average CBeebies programme.

But that may just be my jaded grown-up perspective because it also must be said that the children in the audience appeared pretty enthralled and responsive throughout, giggling frequently at all the bobbing around and the pratfalls. Although the set and frolicking atmosphere was nice, I didn’t relate to the narrative on either a literal or surreal level, certainly not feeling as though I had seen or met any representation of a Mr Boom. But my five year old little boy offered, “I think she’s dreaming. Those are dream people. Look it’s a face.” And sure enough I too saw a face emerge from the abstract shapes of the set and then I looked at my own kid’s smiling face, and I generally felt better about the whole thing. Overall Meeting Mr Boom! is definitely worth seeing as simply a fun family outing, if not as a particularly exciting work of dance.

There are more chances to catch Mr Boom! in London – on 8 March at Stratford Circus, 8 June at artsdepot and The Place on 19 July – as part of a UK tour.
Dates & venues:

Jeffrey Gordon Baker is a transplanted New Yorker living in London; an artist and writer who has studied art, performance and aesthetics at New York University, Central St Martins and Birkbeck College.

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