Review: Springloaded in Mixed bill by Gary Clarke, Rashpal Singh Bansal and Sally Marie at The Place

Performance: May 08
Reviewed by Libby Costello - Monday 19 May 2008

The chance for a second viewing of small company’s work is rarely given, making the offerings to the Spring Loaded festival at the Place extremely intriguing. With a heavy British and almost entirely Northern flavour the triple bill included works by Gary Clarke, Rashpal Singh Bansal and Sally Marie – turning our attention to the UK’s emerging choreographic talent.

Clarke’s explorative creation into the darker side of the coal mining industry opened the bill by deconstructing the image of happy brass band playing workers. The four main dancers (two male, two female) dressed and assumed their role on stage to the repetitive hymn ‘Morning has broken’. In portraying the masculine, muscled miner Clarke took his audience on a march-like walk around the stage before the piece entered the mine.

The lighting played an interactive role, with Mark Webber’s designs creating the atmosphere and space for the miners to set about their work. Although sometimes literal in narrative, the movement and lighting combination alluded to the dancers descending into the pit followed by the claustrophobic, repetitive feel of the job. Clarke’s use of repetition here clearly worked and was strengthened by the drilling sound score by Clive Wilkinson.

The work drew on many dark, yet stereotypical devises – including the image of Margaret Thatcher, to show the shear physicality of the miners life plus the sad demise of the human being after their COAL had been reaped.

Continuing on a British theme, Singh Bansal’s Anything… but exotic questioned the Asian choreographers working in Britain today. The trio created for Singh Bansal and two female dancers was brought back to the stage by the Place. Incorporating traditional Indian dress, the plain clothes dancers worked through a series of contemporary Bharatanatyam phrases.

The dressing of a female dancer on stage drew the majority of the audiences’ attention, as the intricate folding of the sari material took the focus away from the duet. Singh Bansal’s solo mesmerised viewers in the final section of the piece as the movement style and vocabulary sat harmoniously on the dancer/choreographer. Although the choreographers enquiry did not come to fruition within this choreography – maybe this is the starting point for the lines of communication.

Sweetshop Revolutions’ Dulce et Decorum was the second work returning to the Place. Much hype surrounded this staging as director Sally Marie presented the revised work on a new cast. The award winning wit remained thoroughly embedded in the piece, despite the cast change highlighting the strength of the work. The monologues and movement phrases used to portray issues of women during the war intricately built up the characters portrayed.

This shorter working of Dulce et Decorum’s dramatic diversion from the original was the lack of sinister undertones. Sections that had been removed, such as a schoolgirls analysis of Owens poem or the three women’s unison trio to Jerusalem, left the work a little cheerier that its forerunner. The decision to included audience participation – always a risky choice – went down well but did not fit neatly within the piece. Whether this was a choreographic or content choice the revised version of Dulce et Decorum seemed some what of happier shadow of its former self.

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