thu 21/11/2019

Traptown, Wim Vandekeybus/Ultima Vez, Brighton Festival 2019 review - obscure to the point of ridiculous | reviews, news & interviews

Traptown, Wim Vandekeybus/Ultima Vez, Brighton Festival 2019 review - obscure to the point of ridiculous

Traptown, Wim Vandekeybus/Ultima Vez, Brighton Festival 2019 review - obscure to the point of ridiculous

An uneasy and inaccessible evening of performance that searches for abstraction but gets lost in its own concept

Film, music and spoken word - but not enough dancing

It’s no surprise that Wim Vandekeybus is trying something new at Brighton Festival. The Belgian choreographer has a history of pushing dance in new directions, challenging concepts of choreography, creation and the notion of performance. But this new piece, locating film, movement, spoken word and music, might be a step too far.

His new work for Ultima Vez is an incredibly complex tale of the mythical city of Traptown, ruled by a rambling Mayor (Jerry Killick), and made up of two groups, one who represents milk and the other honey. In a grey, dystopian wasteland of endless corridors – shown through a film presented from a birds eye view as well as travelling cameras running through the monochrome maze, dancers flit between film and stage to stories of sink holes and talking omnipotent bunny rabbits. The tyrannical mayor who struggles with things like genocide and worrying his future grandchildren might not have the right books in their hypothetical school bags also, unfathomably, has the ability to turn into an eagle. It’s kind of preposterous.

Traptown's greatest asset is the dancers - full of skill and character, their lithe capoeira, breathtaking thrown lifts, and jigging hornpipe steps are vigorous and compelling. But their spoken word struggles in places. Monologues are difficult to hear, the storytelling is fragmented and hard to follow. They come into their own when jumping up to stand on each other, lift one another by the face or tumbling in graceful wrestling throws; gliding through physical references to fencing and Tai Chi. But aside from the fact they seem to spend less time dancing than they do speaking, they don’t seem to fully believe the choreography or its intent.

An air of perplexity pervades as we struggle with messages around patriarchal privilege, capitalism, the universe, social harmony, racism, justice, revolution – so many messages across myriad concepts that is becomes nonsensical without managing to be theatrically absurd - garbled musings on the cosmos and a screaming demonstration about the exploitations of women and children birth laughs from the audience, before people begin to leave the auditorium with half an hour still to go.

Attempts at audience interaction (passing basketballs from the back of the auditorium through the audience, with cheap shots about testicle jokes) are arbitrary - there is so much of everything that each conceptual thread becomes untethered and we are left, as an audience, with nothing.

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