Review: Motionhouse - Scattered - The Peacock

Performance: Wednesday 26 - Saturday 29 April
Reviewed by Samantha Whitaker - Thursday 27 April 2017

Motionhouse's Sacttered

Reviewed on the 26 April 2017

This is the fifth time Scattered has toured the UK – and the umpteenth time Motionhouse has performed it worldwide. Why? Because audiences love it. And it’s easy to see why.

Buzzing with physicality, visual tricks and dexterous choreography by Motionhouse’s artistic director Kevin Finnan MBE, it’s the epitome of his company’s work. The unique sloping set, designed by Simon Dormon and inspired by a quarter pipe, acts as a giant slide for the seven athletic dancers to hurl themselves down and spider-crawl back up, as well as a backdrop for projection technology to continually reimagine the space.

Although you might not guess it from the title, Scattered is all about water: its various manifestations, atomic structure and the impact of sanitation on world health are just a few of the ideas covered. The electronic score, by Sophie Smith in collaboration with Finnan, is layered with watery sounds, while the projections progress geographically north to south, through ice and snow, to oceans, to forest, then back in reverse, giving the piece some compositional logic.

The first dancer to drop dramatically down the slope draws a collective gasp from the audience – but soon they’re all up and down like yoyos, displaying phenomenal strength, skill and nerve, but perhaps a slightly limited range of movement. A bungee rope makes an appearance and, at the end, three dancers tangle themselves up in silks, which is super-effective but all too brief.

On the floor, the contact choreography, which has become the company’s signature style, is fluid and clean, with strong lines and daring lifts. They dip in and out of different combinations, performing some beautifully sensual duets charged with chemistry – although too often the group is split male/female. And, to be honest, after a while the sequences begin to feel a little repetitive.

Fortunately, the digital imagery keeps it fresh, providing new backdrops for the dancers to interact with and draw us into their world. We see them shivering on icebergs, climbing up into a tap and plunging into a dirty swimming pool. In one section, they’re like Borrowers clinging on to melting ice cubes in a giant freezer, while in another they dive off a waterfall, wiping their faces as they emerge from the depths. Later, against the backdrop of a sun-cracked desert, they perfectly embody lizards with splayed toes, poised and alert. And having traversed the stage using water bottles as missiles, they take a swig and gurgle conversations to each other. Some sections are bizarre, but perhaps it would benefit from a few more moments like this.

Created in 2009, Scattered was the first of what has now become a trilogy. The second, Broken, created in 2013, examines our precarious relationship with the Earth, while the final chapter, Charge, takes its inspiration from energy and is a brand-new work still in the making. It’s due to tour the UK in April next year.

What’s great about these pieces, and many more of Motionhouse’s productions and site-specific projects, is their accessibility and cross-generational appeal. Short and snappy, with a touch of humour and bundles of energy, they always draw in a diverse crowd, which is never disappointed.

Scattered is at the Peacock Theatre until 29 April.

Samantha Whitaker is an editor and freelance writer. Find her on Twitter @swhit1985

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