Review: The Financial Times | Clammy Cravings

Bound To Please

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Clammy Cravings

REVIEW ... Arts Theatre, Cambridge
by David Jays
The Financial Times | Mar 26 1997

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What is the collective noun for a group of dancers? A preen, perhaps. In Bound To Please, DV8's new show premièred at the Cambridge Arts Theatre, dance is a matter for self-censorship: from the tortuous drill of the ballet class, where sinews are terrified into perfection, to paranoid narcissism in the night club, dance seems a 12-step plan to self-hatred.

DV8's charged physical theatre makes outsiders of us all, as director Lloyd Newson mines the soul's clammy cravings.

In the night-life opening of Bound To Please, the performers are rubber-necking club hounds, searching for the cool party, the sublime flirt just out of reach. It is easier to dance alone, blissing out to your own shadow, giving it finesse with your shoulders. Amid the puttering fingers and pelvises worn like billboards, a caress is no more than a narcoleptic hand flopping down your cheek.

Ian MacNeil's rotating set plays with concrete and steel, its desolation stunningly lit by Jack Thompson. He dunks the stage in nocturnal gold, saturates it with rosy banality, snares figures in backlit doorways. Perfect for a show in which people fumble for intimacy in public, gauging a response to scrutiny.

The neediest figure is played by Wendy Houstoun, an electric knot of nerves with a mass of tangled hair. Her chippy disruption of a dance class is fuelled by desperation to conform — "I can be the same!" she chirrups eagerly — but her body refuses to achieve ballet's impossible grace.

Newson has an unfailing eye for the recalcitrant party pooper. When ever it looks as though Houstoun might get her act together a shadowy figure emerges from the darkness, embodiment of all her self-loathing, slapping down her confidence, pushing her out of line.

The most encouraging figue amid the neurotic narcissists is spry veteran Diana Payne-Myers. Living proof that you can emerge from a career in dance with a smile and a personality, she plays a raving wrinkly engaged in awkward romance with Liam Steel's maladroit young anorak. Their fumbling union, jammed in a doorway, is far more poignant than the smooch time around them. Their heads may loll, their bottoms could do with an airbrush, but who cares?

Well, the bloke does, of course. Cruel with shame and loathing, he rejects her crumpled caress. With pragmatic melancholy, Payne-Myers scrubs away sadness in a small iron tub, as the other dancers swoop around her in empty virtuosity. Even Houstoun knots her mane into a tight bright bun, fixing the audience with a sterile smile.

Though lacking the visceral concentration of Enter Achilles, his previous production, Newson's new show probes the yearning heart and the knobbly body with wit and unflinching fascination, plus an unexpected swipe at his sheepish audience. The movement is less physically gruelling than usual, but grace is admitted only to be trashed. Bound To Please is the answer to dancephobes' sneering that the art is merely in thrall to airhead escapism.

 

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