Being Beta

Exercises in the higher banter with One of 26. Elsewhere called 'poet of adland'. By a whipple-squeezer. Find out why being beta is the new alpha: betarish at googlemail dot com

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Capsule: Marjorie's World Unhinged

It is always somewhat surprising when on an evening out you stumble across the limits of narrative. Especially at the latest work by Maresa von Stockert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall last night.

Appointed as artist in residence for 2007 at the South Bank Centre, 'Marjorie's World Unhinged' is billed as an evening of 'dance theatre'. The trouble is that the dance is wildly better than a shonky storyline that sits uneasily between kitchen sink melodrama and whimsical fantasy.

The six 'characters' arbitrarily thrown together - a ballerina and her sister, her pianist-turned-factory-worker husband and their son, and two pupils of her sister's ballet school - sit uneasily in relation to each other. Are they fully family? Friends? Colleagues? Whoever they are, they're not given much by way of an arc of development: they work, bitch, age, die. That's it.

Where the game cast is really hampered is in some poor direction. The opening ballet school section is shockingly-badly staged: a pointless attempt at an overhead perspective merely emphasised its artificiality, and distracted from the movement, which did seem to be genuinely difficult, with the dancers resting on one arm.

And if members of the company are to act, if they are to fully inhabit these characters, they need to do so more vocally, rather than just in flat monotones.

The real giveaway that the showing was working far, far better than the telling was in the narration, which at points described what we had just seen on stage, destroying any more nuanced interpretation that the audience might have developed.

So the theatre's bad. But the dance was - when it was freed from its theatrical straightjacket - consistently intriguing. A sequence set in a factory made intelligent use of a sparse production line to suggest that fantasy can be found amongst the physical repetition and mental drift. A later solo piece about aging made use of a looming fish-eye camera, revealing decay in even the youngest of bodies, and that all flesh - male or female - cannot be told apart at the end. It is all the same as it dies.

But these are slim rewards from a night that promised much. Majorie's world was merely disjointed. Which really wasn't unhinged enough.

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