News Column

Review: Dance: Clod Ensemble Purcell Room, London 24/40

July 18, 2014

Sanjoy Roy



Genre-busting performance group Clod Ensemble, headed by choreographer/director Suzy Willson and composer Paul Clark, bill their work Red Ladies not as a piece, but as a "rendezvous".

It certainly has the feel of a gathering. Before entering the theatre, we start noticing enigmatic women dotted around outside, identically kitted out in chic Grace Kelly-style outfits: black coats and sunglasses, crimson headscarves, stilettos and handbags. They guide us to our seats on a route via the artists' entrance, the green room and backstage area, until we finally arrive in the auditorium.

The stage show is more of a gathering than a sequential ordering of elements. Fragmented radio sounds offer snippets of speech on anything from ladybird migration to corporate culture; a motley musical soundtrack ranges from dissonant tinkling piano to spy-caper movie music, birdsong and mouth-organ wheezing. The scenes are no less varied: one moment the 19 women are as ordered as a battalion; another they clump and scatter across the stage like a panicked herd. Here, a confessional group recounts personal memories; there, a lone woman reads out mythological verse.

Some scenes pack a terrific punch. Slipping into print frocks, the 60s-chic movie-star icons become figures of 50s femininity, cogs in a choreographic machine of pistoning jumps and shuttling limbs, breaking open into a black-clad episode of anarchy that suggests both the liberation and violence of a revolution.

Red Ladies was developed as a public, outdoor performance, which perhaps accounts for both its force and its bittiness. Audiences are immediately captivated by its striking sounds and images, and its almost mythic premise of uncanny creatures who walk among us. But its churn of music, movement and text, and its switches of mode and mood can feel like too much information.

Sanjoy Roy

19 July at Malvern theatres. Box office: 016849 82277. Then touring.



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Source: Guardian (UK)


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