Review: Jonathan Lunn in Reading Room at Queen Elizabeth Hall, Soutbank Centre

Performance: 5 & 6 Jun 08
Reviewed by Lisa Haight - Monday 9 June 2008

Jonathan Lunn, a well respected choreographer and director, has worked with London Contemporary Dance Theatre, numerous opera companies, and on films such as Love Actually. Lunn won the 1993 Time Out Dance Award and his piece *Self Assembly*, set to original text by the late Anthony Minghella, was one of The Place Prize Finals contenders in 2006.

Lunn’s current production, *Reading Room*, contains eight different pieces starting with *The Beginning* whichopens with text by Billy Collins read by actress Juliet Stevenson, another long term collaborator and friend of Minghella. The dancers, Carly Best, Chris Evans, Rachel Krische, Lilou Robert and Chris Rook are engaging to watch whilst their bodies formed angular movements that cut through the air to the unsettling music of Scanner.

The second piece, *Stirrings Still*, with text by Samuel Beckett, was read by Stevenson whilst Evans mimicked her words with movement. I enjoyed the contrast between Stevenson’s soothing voice and Evans’ desperate movements.
The third piece, *Off Screen* set to music by Slipper/DJ Shadow, had the dancers doing light-hearted movements, like looking through the lens of a telescope, playing an invisible piano and leap frog.

In the second half of the show, the pieces *The Middle, Disassembly, Sink or Swim* and *The End* all seem to merge together. It begins with Stevenson reading text by Billy Collins. Then ghost-like figures start moving forward, whispering. Towards the end of these pieces, Rook does a playful handstand over two other dancers and walks off stage on his hands.

Reading Room ends with my favourite piece of the night, *Self Assembly*. The “music” was pre-recorded text written by Anthony Minghella about assembling flat packed furniture. The text was amusing and set against slick and aesthetically pleasing to watch choreography. Best and Evans do Lunn’s choreography proud.

Overall, Reading Room was enjoyable to watch. I liked the way the stage was constantly being transformed into different rooms by the dancers moving the black flats into different positions and the use of lighting in blocks of colour like a Mondrian painting (set and lighting designed by Peter Mumford). Juliet Stevenson’s reading of the various texts live was an aural delight. However, I didn’t always think that the choreography worked as well when performed only to the reading of the text; it didn’t always seem to harmonise as it did when set to music. I also felt the second half of Reading Room lost its momentum until the final piece, Self Assembly, gave it its edge back.

The highlight of the evening for me was watching Carly Best perform. Although all the dancers tonight were to a high standard, Best stole the show. She had an energy about her which was unsurpassed by everyone else on the stage, and I could not keep my eyes off of her, I was entranced. For this bewitching reason alone, Reading Room is well worth seeing.

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