Review: Nutshell Dance - Physical Science - Blue Elephant Theatre

Performance: 21 February 2015
Reviewed by Jeffrey Gordon Baker - Friday 27 February 2015

'Physical Science' Photo: Alicia Clarke

Physical Science is a perky introduction to the fundamentals of movement mixology. Three little pots of brightly coloured potion sit mysteriously centre stage and our narrator, the gentle and friendly, immanently likeable Zosia Jo, leads us through a series of experiments in choreographic chemistry. Jo, assisted by fellow scientists Sarah Hitch and Justyna Sochaj in white lab coats all, presented a kind of interactive children’s TV show, effectively encouraging the studio audience of kids at the Blue Elephant theatre to get on their feet, bubble and stir up concoctions of dance dynamics.

The material seemed to be drawn from hours of experience in primary school dance classes, and all three performers were watchable without being insipid or patronising. The tone throughout was easy going and educational, as the children were inspired to make animal shapes of their bodies; inflate and float like balloons; and pretend to be clay statues that eventually melted in the rain. My own little boy was shy about making himself into a statue but he was happy to get up and wave his arms to melt his fellows into gloopy wiggly puddles on the floor.

In the last half the children were invited to offer their own metaphorical seeds of inspiration, and came up with clouds and atoms, bunnies and steam, the latter being the contribution of a grown up in the crowd, similarly too shy to enact an illustration of his own contribution. Director Mari Frogner’s concept was more of a workshop than a show, a playful laboratory, stirring together words, signs and images, but showing rather than telling children how these can be combined into choreography, with the performers showing particular adeptness at encouraging the kids to try it all out for themselves. Francis Western-Smith’s score was like a babbling brook of synthesised, romper room melodies to accompany our scientists in the merry task of learning the science of making dances.

Jeffrey Gordon Baker is a transplanted New Yorker living in London; an artist and writer who has studied art, performance and aesthetics at New York University, Central St Martins and Birkbeck College. Twitter: @jeffreyGordonB

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