Review: Jasmin Vardimon Company - Park - on UK tour, coming to Sadler's Wells in November

Performance: 21 October 2014, Theatre Royal, Winchester
Reviewed by Charlotte Constable - Wednesday 29 October 2014

Photo: Ben Harries

This autumn Jasmin Vardimon brings her much loved production Park back to the stage in its tenth anniversary year, with a sparkling new cast. The company are currently in the midst of a tour of ten venue tour across the UK, stopping off for performances in London at Sadler’s Wells on 10 &11 November.

For those unfamiliar with its story, Park showcases a menagerie of eight characters, each finding comfort in this dingy urban hideaway. A bag lady, weighed down by her vast amounts of shopping. A tramp, resigned to his sleeping bag until disturbed by an angst-ridden thug. A flirtatious young woman (a standout performance by newcomer Silke Muys) vying for the attention of the local lads. But throughout the piece’s 95-minute running time, these once isolated figures form new relationships, which challenge them to question who they really are; the many layers of their personality are slowly (and literally, in the case of the bag lady) stripped down before our very eyes.

The piece remains largely similar to the original, down to its eclectic score, which still features timeless hits such as Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s The Power of Love and Hot Butter’s Popcorn. Vardimon’s distinctively athletic choreography seems remarkably familiar, the physically gruelling motifs in which dancers bounce for minutes on end, or throw themselves to the floor on their sides, still awe-inspiring. The set, too, maintains memories of its predecessor, right down to its mermaid statue and litter-ridden floor. It is details such as these which lend themselves to the theme of continuity; the suggestion that the park has remained unimproved upon for a decade. (At one subtle moment, the busker even drags the newly-moved bench back to its original position, protesting that ‘it’s been here since 2004’).

Vardimon herself is adamant that the themes of the work remain just as pertinent, if not more so, today than ten years ago. There are comments on feminism and rape culture – the thug manipulates the bag lady by grasping her with his basketball, seemingly toying but in fact groping. There is the implication that an investor, who has been assessing the park and its worth throughout, cannot cope with the strains of her job; she maintains composure when carrying her briefcase, then crumbles hysterically once it is dropped. Not to mention the hypocritical stand-off speeches between the thug and the businessman: the b-boying thug proclaiming men should not dance in public; the businessman protesting ‘some people are definitely more equal than others’, before highlighting the park’s ‘equality and diversity’ to the investor. Vardimon never fails, be it through text or movement, to comment on socio-political issues with wit and dry humour.

Nonetheless, Park is not always intended for heavy analysis. Vardimon reminds us of this in the frequently playful, gestural glimpses of everyday park life, and in a joyful, splashing full-cast dance worth waiting for.

Catch Park in London at Sadler’s Wells on 10 & 11 November
UK tour dates & venues:

Jasmin Vardimon Company workshop at
Danceworks, 5 November

Based in the south of England, Charlotte Constable is a recent graduate of the University of Winchester. She’s a regular contributor to Article19 and Dancehub (Australia).

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