Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Disappointing Dance Date

James Son of James, The Dome, 13th Feb 08

As a sixth-form drama student in Lewes, I was a regular visitor to the now sadly defunct Gardner Arts Centre, just up the road on the Sussex University campus in Falmer. I can clearly recall falling asleep on more than one occasion during some highly pretentious and dreary 'physical theatre' performances; usually involving lots of grunting and wailing; and subsequently struggling to find enough to say in the required post-theatre trip essay. Now and then there would be something good enough to keep my attention, and stop me from losing faith entirely in the so-called 'performance art' genre, in fact my second ever date with the now husband was to see an excellent Northern Stage production of Animal Farm which we both enjoyed, he being even more cynical than me. The only times I've seen such things in recent years have been at Edniburgh festival, when more often than not, I would again be disappointed at the cringe-making no-irony-intended archness of it all. But I still haven't given up hope of finding the odd gem in amongst a slew of ostentatious tripe, and was intrigued by the hype surrounding Irish dance company Fabulous Beast, whose latest production, James Son of James, in the absence of the Gardner, would be finding a home at the more central mainstream venue of The Dome. So I bought two tickets for me and the boy, hoping to bring back happy memories of our early courtship, and to make a change from our seemingly habitual gig-going excursions. Fabulous Beast calls itself a dance company, and the cast members are clearly talented dancers, but the moments of movement were few and far between - the production instead being punctuated by tedious, drawn-out scenes of stilted dialogue and sometimes painful singing. The story itself was predictable and sparse, maybe enough to fill a short festival-length piece of 45 mins, but too much to stretch over nearly two hours with no interval. The only bit I really enjoyed was I suppose the closest thing to a chorus number in this kind of show - a beautifully choreographed wedding scene in which the whole cast showed off their dance skills with an array of styles, from salsa to jive. But this only served to make the rest of the performance more of an anti-climax, and we both left feeling distinctly underwhelmed. I have a feeling it might be a good long while before I will be able to persuade 'him indoors' along to anything remotely similar in future. Back to gigs next week, then.

James Son of James, Fabulous Beast Dance Company

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