Monday, 7 August 2017

The North – Dance Base, Edinburgh

[seen 05/08/17]

Joan Clevillé’s The North is probably as a good an entry-level bit of contemporary dance as you’re likely to find at the Fringe. Theatre-refugees in particular will find much to delight them. For a start, it’s dramaturged by Ella Hickson (I presume the Ella Hickson); for seconds, it’s got a script and honest-to-God dialogue; and then there’s the venue, which... Well, if like me you’re bracing yourself for a month of watching plays, pieces, whatevers, mostly in damp basements, sweaty attics, and dusty back-rooms, there’s something intensely refreshing about a large clean white room, with beautiful concrete architecture, a purpose built lighting rig, and a first-rate sound system.

The piece itself is a lot of fun too, with the added bonus that – as well as being fun, and having bits of dialogue – it’s performed by people who (unless you’re a trained dancer too) can just do amazing stuff that you can’t. And can do it without breaking a sweat, at the same time as doing all the normal stuff you can do. Which is a pretty excellent thing to go and see.

In terms of The Actual Show, well, it kicks off with a bloke (John Kendall) being dragged on stage in a huge plastic bag and emptied out onto the stage, by a pair of women/dancers/shape-shifting-mythic-creatures (Eve Ganneau and Solène Weinachter). He has arrived in The North – essentially an amusing assemblage of tropes. The landscape is represented (surprisingly effectively) by a single small fir tree, and its inhabitants are dressed in gold jeans, Lundpers, and sometimes antlers. They speak an incomprehensible language that sounds like Donald Duck (very funny). The plot (yes! Even a plot) basically sees him trying to get to grips with living in this cold, remote, unfamiliar place; never quite knowing whether he’s “doing it right” or not. In fact, it feels for all the world like a Nordic remake of Anne Washburn’s The Internationalist.

It’s not maybe the absolute “deepest,” “most urgent” or “necessary” thing you’ll see this year, but it’s a very, very well done version of itself, and I imagine might fire the imaginations of more earth-bound theatremakers with the sheer range of additional possibilities offered by dance. Very much worth checking out (maybe especially when you’re completely sick of black drapes hung up in store rooms).

The North. Joan Clevillé Dance. 4 – 13 Aug. 8 – 13 Aug | 16.15 | 60 mins | PG £12 (£10 conc)

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