ROUGE To 27 July.

Milton Keynes/London.


Big Top Theatre Tent Campbell Park MK9 4AD.
23 July 7.30pm.
TICKETS: 01908 280800.

then Purcell Room South Bank Centre Belvedere Road SE1 8XX 25-27 July 2012.
25-26 July 7.45pm mat 26-27 July 2pm.
TICKETS: 0844 875 0073.

Runs 1hr No interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 20 July.

Show of strength of human spirit and body.
This hour-long piece from Cambodia’s Phare Ponleu Selpak (working with French dancers Compagnie UBI), performed to the rhythms of Gamelan drums, is impressive in its leaping and somersaulting. The young male troupe vault from ground to each other’s shoulders, then fly up in a somersault before landing on the same shoulders, albeit briefly – balance is a tricky thing.

There’s also juggling, quite impressive even amidst the advanced modern state of that skill. But for all its acrobatic energy, what’s key to Rouge is the company’s origins among young Cambodians raised in exile in Thai border camps when, in the second half of the 1970s, their own country was ruled by Communist leader Pol Pot’s oppressive Khmer Rouge.

As memories or nightmares, those days lie behind the young company the exiles created in the 1994, to become their own, more benevolent, transformation of unsocialised youth through the disciplines of performance and the self-respect they develop.

The images can be ambiguous, viewed this far from home. In the quiet opening a figure picks up eight poles, holding each at a different angle around his body. Physically, it’s not easy. It could be an image of protection or confinement. Suitably, it becomes a framing image.

In red silhouetted images, torture and punishment beatings are clear. Elsewhere, images suggest defiance and punishment. One figure becomes isolated by his bare torso. A lone rebel perhaps. But when he seems to climb an ascending ‘staircase’ of others’ bodies, is it a sign of oppression or assertion of his own freedom?

An impressive show, and in Milton Keynes part of the impressive, if damp, opening of an International Festival, planned to happen every two years, and already giving the city an economic as well as cultural lift. From Lone Twin’s 30-foot sailing-boat ‘Collective Spirit’, built by pieces of wood donated by the public and ‘bottled-up’ in the built-up Queen’s Court at thecentre:MK precinct, through a “breathless” active game of detection Track Down (till 29 July), to a nocturnal walk round Campbell Park illuminated by French luminaries Compagnie Carabosse, it’s an investment in people the city and its people.

Milton Keynes Festival details:

2012-07-23 12:51:49

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