Robert Tanitch reviews Tragedie at Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London EC1
Oliver Dubois, artistic director of Ballet du Nord, premiered his all-nude Tragedie at the Avignon Festival in 2012. In creating a work for naked performers Dubois reassures his audience in a programme essay that he is not seeking to titillate but rather to explore the humanity in us all.
Nine men and nine women, completely naked throughout the performance, march determinedly up and down the stage with military regularity and precision to a pulsating drum. Back and forth they go with sharp turns, and in and out of the dark drapes at the back. The highly drilled formations are hypnotically and obsessionally repetitive.
The synchronisation takes a long time to disintegrate; but when it does it descends into chaos and frenetic convulsions, and mass hysteria with strobe lighting. The naked bodies writhe, thrash and flail on the floor, a Dionysian orgy. Men and women pile on top of each other. The stormy, screeching, jangling soundscape becomes more and more deafening.
Olivier Dubois’s Tragedie lasts 90 relentless minutes and is performed without interval. Dancers and audience are left absolutely exhausted. There is no catharsis.