Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Dance review: At Swim Two Boys

At Swim Two Boys is closer to dance than it is to "movement theatre," which puts it a bit out of my comfort zone, reviewing-wise. I have read Jamie O'Neill's original novel, but far too long ago to remember much about it, and storytelling isn't the primary concern here. O'Neill has collaborated with dance company Earthfall (director/choreographers Jessica Cohen and Jim Ennis) to create a show focused on the love affair between the titular young boys (Daniel Connor and Murilo Leite D'Imperio.) Although the setting is nominally the Irish Sea, Gerard Tyler's set has more of an industrial vibe: Water dribbles throughout the show, down metal sheeting at the back, pooling onto the stage on which the boys splash around their doomed love affair. There's a warning that the front row will get wet, although wettest would probably be more accurate - I got splashed enough in the second row, and could see water arcing way over my head to those behind as well. And once the dancers put kilts on you might as well resign yourself to a shower; a dancer spinning in a soaking wet kilt is basically the same thing as turning the sprinklers on.

Perceptive people, or indeed just people, might guess that purely artistic reasons weren't the only thing behind me booking for this show. And it is indeed a very sexy hour of dance, which ends up being probably its biggest strength. The two dancers have a believable chemistry and fearless physicality in what looks like a treacherous show. It's left to the projections (by Steve Vearncombe, Jim Ennis and Gerald Tyler) and the occasional voiceover (by O'Neill and Ennis) to give an idea of the historical context, while the music (by Roger Mills, Frank Naughton, Sion Orgon and Felix Otaola) mixes traditional-sounding Irish music (there's a lot of accordion) with electric guitar to give a feel of the setting. As for the religious conflicts that colour Irish history, by the time the dancers are down to their clingy bathing suits you can see what religion they aren't, does that count? So it's a show that feels only vaguely connected to its original story, but has a nice mix of the high-powered and the more subdued to keep it visually and emotionally interesting, and remains intensely sexy throughout.

At Swim Two Boys by Jamie O'Neill and Earthfall is booking until the 25th of February at Riverside Studio 3; then continuing on tour to Plymouth, Cardiff, Aberystwyth, Worcester, Salford, Caernarfon, Lincoln, Southampton and Newport.

Running time: 1 hour straight through.

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