Review: Marc Brew’s BREWBAND - Sadler's Wells

Performance: 25 April 2017
Reviewed by Ruby Embley - Friday 28 April 2017

Performance reviewed: 25th April

‘It’s not what you think’, is the underlying sentiment of Brewband, Marc Brew’s mash-up of rock music and contemporary dance. ‘Is this a gig or a dance?’ musician Jill O’Sullivan asks the audience, ‘I don’t know.’

The six performers change hats constantly throughout, sometimes dancer, sometimes musician. They follow a setlist but mess with the format. Brew breaks down the traditional separation between dancer and musician. Drummer Peter Kelly’s kit is whisked away mid-beat. He follows, stretching for the different drums as they carousel around him. The whole thing can feel a bit Spinal Tap at times, as the dancers worm their way between the drums and Kelly nearly takes a foot to the face.

Mark Brew is a disabled choreographer interested in challenging perceptions about identity and disability in dance. The subversive themes are strong. Disabled dancer Alice Sheppard is daring and powerful. She carves arcs through the space, gathers speed and balances on a single wheel as she rounds corners in her chair. In one particularly striking moment Sheppard cradles O’Sullivan in her lap.

There is a lot on stage here. Six performers and their instruments, plus a projection of Yvonne Strain translating song lyrics into British Sign Language. There are lots of ideas bouncing around too and it can feel overwhelming. It works well when Brew allows more time to individual moments. We watch Martyn Garside rave alone to the sound of the drums, the rhythm so clearly visible in his punchy movements. In stripy leggings he ekes out every inch of flexibility and balance in his body before folding in on himself to begin again.

The final moment is where it comes together for me. The band return for an encore and invite the audience on stage for a boogie. In the post-show talk, Brew says that he imagines the show in the O2 Academy and other music venues. Thinking of the crowd and band grooving together I can certainly picture it.

Ruby Embley is a professional dancer and dance teacher. She studied at the London Contemporary Dance School and is a reviewer for

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