Review: Bock and Vincenzi in Here, As If They Hadn't Been, As If They Are Not at Laban

Performance: 30 & 31 May
Reviewed by Lindsey Clarke - Monday 5 June 2006

Bock and Vincenzi are serious artists. This show is the result of a seven-year project Invisible Dances and is the epilogue or Act III to a series of artistic creations exploring, as they explain in their own words, “our relationship to absence, to the memory of the body and our perception of space and time”.

Before we went in, I was warned by a colleague that the piece was “intense” and “hardcore”. He was right. It was also, to be fair, somewhat “baffling” and “monotonous”. Still, this is a heavyweight piece of dance theatre, beautifully produced and performed with utter conviction. That said it isn’t an easy watch. It’s certainly not a entertaining hour and a half in the traditional sense. Pondering the many repetitions and variations, the interspersing spells of nothingness, the recurring droning soundscape intermittently shattered by heart-leaping spasms of white noise, one is forced to wonder whether enduring the experience as an observer is in fact the point.

Denied the ready accessibility of the usual sounds, sights and context, the audience endures this performance in a state of sensory disorientation and unease. For example, we are unable to hear the music the twelve performers are moving to (they wear personal stereos whose tapes are switched regularly); we cannot see the images that hypnotise a trio of stiffly juddering balaclava-clad swimmers. A statuesque lady wrapped in a bath sheet speaks about experiences in the auditorium that aren’t really happening and a man dressed in just his pants and tied to a stick walks or jogs on the spot, occasionally giggling for reasons we know not.

The company comprises a mix of blind and sighted people. It becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish between them as, in turn, they throw themselves obliviously into frenzied, frenetic bouts of movement, eyes shut. One extreme case pulls her jumper over her head to hammer the point home. The risk assessment people are also on hand, supervising each unseeing performer to avoid ungraceful casualties. But it’s only a matter of time. The closest we come tonight is one performer walking blindly across the stage and narrowly missing a hand-crotch collision with an inexplicable man in red body paint wearing naught but a bunch of showgirl feathers and a posing pouch.

The piece raises and performs serious questions about perception and representation. There is evidently a wealth of research and commitment behind this epic project which has worked through innovative, pioneering ideas and rigorously transformed them into dramatic and thought-provoking dance theatre. It’s also highly reminiscent of a recent episode of Doctor Who, where humans were mind-washed through fancy earpieces and the possessed walked the Earth with the same juddering, jerky, robots-learning-to-walk-like movement as the aforementioned swimmers. Whether this makes Bock & Vincenzi absurd or sublime, I really couldn’t say.

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