Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Unneeded: The Porcelain Project

Gareth K Vile is unsettled but not convinced by Needcompany.EVENT REVIEW BY GARETH K VILE.

Even the most powerful companies fail, on occasion. Needcompany are very powerful, and The Porcelain Project is, disappointingly, a failure. Even at under two hours, it is far too long, wandering around its point and undermining some restrained, elegant and seductive dance with absurdist humour. The high concept - an installation that became a performance, a blurring of the line between ceramics and choreography – is never connected to the content – a study of the madness of kings. It has moments of interest without adding up to a fulfilling experience.

The forceful last moment, featuring an orgy of monarchs, captured in fading and flashing lights, has an intensity that emerges from nowhere. Most of the production is caught between sensual female dances and thick-set males wearing pottery noses. The sensual dances are fluid, enticing. The guys wearing vases are irritating, picking up on that absurdist tradition that invests broad slapstick with intellectual pretentions - Benny Hill in a mortar board.

While other Needcompany work has been compassionate, this emphasises the grotesque and the ugly. It does operate as a balance to the depth and humanism of pieces like Isabella’s Room, another Needcompany work. It identifies the problems of power, the domination and brutality of sexuality and the stupidity of humanity unleashed. Yet even these topics are hardly exposed, merely suggested. Everything is smothered by a light-heartedness, a cheeky wink to the audience.

Even a poor work by Needcompany has some worth. The idea is strong, the dancers elegant and the fusion of installation and dance visually striking – at least at first. Yet it never reaches out, never communicates, and the rattling, erratic soundtrack is distancing rather than encompassing. The worth is more for students of dance, in the possibility of inspiration rather than in genuine emotional impact.

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