Don’t you all want to stay and find out what Botis was trying to say? were the final words I heard as I rushed out of the theatre much later than expected. Well yes, I would love to find out exactly what Botis was trying to say but too many trains have gone by for me to stay for the post show talk. So, I will just have to come to my own conclusions. My only definite response: I think it was important.
Here are some of my thoughts on this exciting, loud, and rather uncomfortable performance. It might have been commenting on the sexualised nature of commercial music… possibly. Or, it might have been a satire on the self-indulgent and rather ridiculous style of some hip hop dance… less likely. Or, and I am pretty sure of this one, it was making a strong (and definitely moving) statement on the migrant crisis.
The performance starts with five naked backs writhing in glowing light, each muscle articulating itself out of the blackness. The hip hop roots of the movement are clear as the piece continues to build; however, this is a chaotic, frenetic sort of hip hop with each movement given an animalised and infantilised energy with a violence merging with a rather disturbing sense of child’s play. The satire of hip hop movements is more than a satire of the dance itself; it is a comment on the culture from which it springs. The solo by Chouaib Brik is impressive, combining the more traditional hip hop with the childlike theme.
The first half finishes with probably the most impressive fight scene in dance that I have ever seen. Jordan Douglas and Victoria Shulungu depict a Martial arts lesson with complete precision. Each movement is perfectly executed with speed, immediacy, and beauty. There is a flawless balance of intimacy and violence, a softness and a humour amongst the sharpness. The lights go down and we are subjected to one of those awkward moments where spot lights hit audience members, a deep voice over making mumbling but definitely personal comments about its victims. Then the lights go up on us all and we are left in silence looking around uncomfortably to see who is brave enough to start clapping.
The second half is a complete contrast to the first, starting with an enjoyable DJ and voice performance from Mikey J. It is a shame that this impressive interlude takes so long to set up; no one really wants a 40 minute interval. The atmosphere changes as the dancers emerge, laughing and joking, out of the much emptier auditorium (a substantial number of people seemed to have dashed off in the interval). They burst on to the stage in a now humanised version of the beings in the first half. This is a highly politicized section of the evening with political rants against Cameron and Miliband types as well as an effective satire of the brutal, xenophobic, and racist white British who’s battle cry is ‘Who are ya’ as they beat up and intimidate foreigners. The dancers turn the likes of the English Defence League into a nightmare of yobbish ignorance fuelled by an uncaring government.
There are some powerful moments: as Jordan Douglas strips down in a farcical strip tease, we stop fast in our laughter when he calls out to us: ‘Why are you laughing? Did you get off a boat today? Didn’t think so.’ Suddenly his near nakedness shifts from comically sexy to heart wrenchingly vulnerable.
Botis Seva curates an exciting evening, offering us a range of experimental theatre experiences. He doesn’t offer any solutions to the questions he raises, or if he did, it was during the post-show talk… which I missed.