Review: Giuliana Majo / Gabriele Reuter - Sprinloaded at The Place

Performance: 28 April 2012
Reviewed by Jeffrey Gordon Baker - Monday 30 April 2012

Gabrielle Reuter 'Tourist' Photo: Holger Tallinski

Saturday night’s Spring Loaded programme at The Place presented conceptually similar works by choreographers Giuliana Majo and Gabriele Reuter.

Majo’s work Red, began before the audience even sat down in the theatre. She was there herself, holding the door for us as we entered. She even gave the people ahead of me a hug, but I guess they were friends of hers since I was greeted with a smile. The piece began, or rather continued, with Majo centre stage, explaining that the piece had already begun, that artistic choices were being made all the time, that there were in fact, an overwhelming number of potential choices she could make, or we could make with her since of course she was performing with us and not just for us and… So it went for some minutes, Majo contemplating her own actions (or inaction) until I wished she would start making some of those choices she was going on about.

And then she did. After inviting musician ‘Mike’ (composer Michael Picknett) to the stage, the two began a duet. She reached, swiped and sliced at the air whilst he correspondingly played sound effects, which, to the delight of our imaginations, were of course the ‘effects’ of her actions. Majo ‘played’ Mike’s sounds with her dancing body, a device made all the more magical because we knew where the sounds were coming from. A twist upward toward the ceiling produced a coughing sound, a chop to the right a mysterious bong!, and the space between her palms seemed to be full of birds for when she floated her hands around we could hear them singing. This tiny section had the simplicity and charm of child’s play, and indeed the little girls sitting next to me were enthralled. It was over too soon however, and we were back in the awkward world of self-conscious commentary. The piece petered out as Majo literally lost the plot of her conceptual narrative.

Gabriel Reuter’s Tourist, also contained inspired moments of whimsical theatrical fantasy. We were initially confronted with a glowing expanse of white stage, into which a goggled and bundled up explorer-type blew in through the door on one side of the stage and was then sucked out again through the door on other side. More of this slapstick buffoonery was to come as three performers (Julieta Figueroa, Seke Chimutengwende and Reuter herself), clad in pre-opened parachutes, utility belts and safari hats, goofed about like a bumbling outward bound expedition, speaking to each other in remarkably fluent gibberish, making silly faces and performing feats of comical oneupmanship to surprisingly hilarious effect. Some sequences may have gone on too long, but this was accomplished clowning pure and simple, and the audience loved it.

However, in trying to be all clever, Reuter’s piece fell into the same trap as Majo’s. All of a sudden the characters – sweet and funny pranksters we had come to care about – abruptly disappeared. The performers stopped talking gibberish to inform us in lecture-style English that we were in a theatre and behind the back wall was a water cooler and King’s Cross station was down the road blah blah blah. The piece ended weakly with the performers stumbling aimlessly around the empty space, ironically an apt metaphor for the half-baked philosophical meanderings of these two pieces.

I’m not suggesting that it’s impossible, but you’ve got to get up pretty early in the morning to unravel the mystical relationship between the audience and performer, theatrical make believe and mundane reality…in 30 – 45 minutes of playing time. You can poke all the holes in the fourth wall that you want, but is it worth it when you’re already having such a good time with the playing itself?

Spring Loaded , the annual season at The Place showcasing the brightest talents of UK and International contemporary choreography continues until June

Jeffrey Gordon Baker took part in this year’s Resolution! ReviewThe Place’s online magazine which includes reviews of every Resolution! show, by professional dance critics and aspiring writers.

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