RUNNING ON EMPTY
by Brad Birch.
Soho Theatre 21 Dean Street W1D 3NE To 16 February 2014.
Tue-Sat 7.15pm Sun 5pm Mat Sat 3pm.
Runs 50min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7478 0100.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 8 February.
Often lovely to look at, but it would be delightful to know what it adds up to.
This piece from dance company Probe doesn’t quite hit you with the full gesamtkunstwerk. For it doesn’t quite bring together the three performers involved in its creation. Greig Cooke and Antonia Grove (Probe’s Artistic Director) ably combine dance and speech, but Scott Smith sits alone at the side of the stage, surrounded by the musical and amplifying tools of his aural trade.
Speech might be the odd skill out, though, rather than music, and this piece adds to the saying that if something is too silly to be said in words it can always be sung, by adding the extension ‘or expressed in movement’.
The problem isn’t silliness as such – this is a very serious piece. But once words have entered the performance alongside sound and movement, certain specific factors come into play. The voice in which words are spoken brings expectations about individual character. Ideas, if they are not to seem vague to the point of meaningless, have to be rooted in a context of action or thought.
Probe’s programme note makes reference to the Dreamtime believed in by indigenous Australians, which seems an ‘eternal now’ of which a lifetime on earth is a part. From half a world away it has an abstract attraction but in terms of consequences, it is hardly explored as it applies to the two characters here, as they begin separately, then collide and move apart.
Images of water, and the ocean, are dominant. They are, of course, good for dance, incorporating easily the fluidity and grace dancers possess. And some of its wide associations are used constructively – two people clinging together for safety on a fragile craft amid a swirling natural force.
But such material needs iron discipline not only in its performance but in its construction, and there are times when moments, which might be impressive in themselves seem included because they work well in performance, rather than because they contribute to a larger significance.
Whatever the initial spark for the piece, and despite the evidently skilled performers, this watery piece eventually dries-up without the overall coherence to keep it on track.
Performers: Greig Cooke, Antonia Grove, Scott Smith.
Director: Jo McInnes.
Designer/Costume: Fabrice Serafino.
Lighting: Beky Stoddart.
Music: Scott Smith.
Songs: Lee Ross.
Choreographer: Charlie Morrissey.