Robert Tanitch reviews Barbarians at Sadler’s Wells, London EC1
“I am looking for something pure and innocent,” says Hofesh Shechter, internationally renowned for Political Mother
There is nothing either pure or innocent about his Barbarians, a disjointed trilogy, which he has choreographed and written music for in his distinctive manner. The dancing is frenetic. The music is deafening. The lighting is rock roving. Black-outs play a key role.
The programme opens with Barbarians in Love. The six dancers jerk about as if they were in Bedlam, Hades or Chaos. It is all very primitive. The lighting is dramatic, even when it is so dim that you can barely see what is going on.
Exhausted, the dancers stand still while Shechter philosophises in a badly recorded voice-over. “We are not alone!” they yell. There is more frenzy and they end up standing quite still in the nude, dimly lit.
After the interval there is tHE bAD (Please note that’s the title and not my bad typing!!) The five different dancers look as if they are naked; but they are not. They are wearing very tight gold body suits.
In Shechter’s Bad Head, barbarism triumphs over civilisation. There is more frenzy, suffering, fighting, copulating, etc. Occasionally the dancers send themselves up with the odd bit of dialogue: “How long can I keep this up?” asks one dancer.
There are more irritating jokey voice-overs, too. “You’ve put yourself into the piece, haven’t you, Hofesh? Why do you do it?”
The programme ends with Two completely different angles of the same thing which is a study of a middle-aged couple man having a love-hate relationship and in desperate need of counselling. The man is in lederhosen, for goodness sake. Call in the social services.
Shechter says the duet is the point of the entire evening.