Review: Pierre Rigal's Game Over at Purcell Room, Southbank Centre

Performance: 17 & 18 May 2012
Reviewed by Jeffrey Gordon Baker - Tuesday 22 May 2012

Pierre Rigal & Aurelien Bory's  'Game Over' Photo: Pierre Grosbois.

Reviewed performance: 17 May

A line of floating white rectangles hovers across the back of the stage, morphing in to stick figures like the ones made of pixels in ancient 1980s video games. When they suddenly switch, begin to glow and then buzz with static, we realise they are actually tiny handheld video monitors, miniature tv sets, tuned into a football match in progress. These are scenes soon to be deconstructed by the performers wielding the little devices. Coming into focus is choreographer/director Pierre Rigal’s memory of a dramatic 1982 World Cup semi-final game between France and Germany. This mythologised match pitted the underdog French against an apparently superior German team, a confrontation packed with injuries, close shaves, a shocking upset of a finish and more than a little resonant post-war tension. We see actual scenes from the televised event on those nifty little monitors and we hear the crowd cheering, the narrative unfolding of the game in sur-titled French voiceover, but Game Over by Rigal and co-director Aurelien Bory stages more than the devised reworking of a historical sporting contest.

Things start out normal enough. The dancers present stylised tableaux images culled from the actual match; a triumphant kick, a catastrophic collision; frozen, fast-forwarded, in slow-motion and repeated. The theatrical and physical vocabulary of puppetry and clowning is used more than recognisable dance moves, set to interludes of dreamy music and cinematic lighting effects. The tone of the piece increasingly takes on an uncanny, mythical quality until by the end all semblance of realistic representation disappears into the landscape of a runaway fantasy.

Performers walk up the backs of each other’s legs ambling along like gangly, hybrid creatures. The tiny lights that make numbers on a scoreboard pop out, scatter onto the floor, and are gathered up to be used as the glowing eyes and illuminated vertebrae of a dancer’s spine. Padded football kit is turned upside down on someone’s head, becoming a wide-mouthed monster lurching around, gobbling things up. Rather than being the simple abstraction of a remembered event, the piece is more like an enchanted ritual, as much about the distortions of memory itself as it is about the historical game it takes as its subject matter. Game Over shows how recollections are deformed and dissected by the emotions attached to them and the passing of time.

Benoit Canteteau, Itamar Glucksman, Elena Borghese and Rigal himself show stamina and versatility in pulling off a variety of tricks both physical and to do with the clever manipulation of props, but Rigal’s whimsical, child-like imagination is the main attraction.

Jeffrey Gordon Baker took part in this year’s Resolution! Review – The Place’s online magazine which includes reviews of every Resolution! show, by professional dance critics and aspiring writers. An ex-New Yorker, he’s in London studying for a PhD in Aesthetic Theory at Birkbeck College, University of London.

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