United Kingdom Berger, Sperlich, The Old Testament According to The Loose Collective: The Loose Collective, The Place: Robin Howard Theatre, London, 12.9.2013. (JO’D)
Concept and Performance: Alex Deutinger
Anna Maria Nowak
Music and Compostion: Guenther Berger
Stephan Sperlich – 78plus
Costumes: Hanna Hollmann
Lighting: Peter Thalhamer
Sound: Stefan Ehgartner
Outside Eye: Jacob Banigan
Archipelago Wien and
Performanceinitiative 22 Graz
Co-production: Tanzquartier Wien
From the start everything about this piece, one of the ‘Unexpected Dances’ in The Place’s Summer House International Season, would seem to be aimed at disconcerting its audience: the too long-held stares with which the seven performers, on their separate entrances and then as a group, turn the act of looking back on to the spectator; the haircuts of the five men that hover between the comic and the bizarre; the clothes that they and the two women wear, every item of which in a visual coup de théâtre (belts included), is dyed an identical shade of pink closer to flesh than salmon.
Over the fifty minutes it lasts, the work shifts between speech and song and movement. Like a David Lynch film, it is always ready to slip from the familiar to the strange, then back again. The ‘libretto’ (stapled photocopies of which are handed out to each member of the audience in the foyer before the performance begins), combines words and phrases taken from the Books of The Old Testament (King James’ Version, but reassembles them to give a new meaning, or perhaps no meaning. The words are spoken, or sung to an accompaniment of electric guitars (which are to hand at the back of the white stage). The movement can be recognizable dance, or else inventive, puzzling and sometimes humorous combinations of two or more human bodies. Even when it is dance, something about the gestures (- too exaggerated, too solipsistic – disturbs. The different attributes and capabilities of each microphoned, multi-tasking performer appear to have been taken into account as he or she switches from one activity to another. It is inevitable, perhaps, that not all of them will be able to sing or to move with the same skill, inevitable that there will be moments when it shows.
The programme notes refer to ‘contemporary performance methods’ and ‘diaspora post-punk’ (the latter a term that The Loose Collective may have invented for itself). I liked the way the machine for producing dry ice was pushed on to the stage by one of the women before the dry ice was produced. But if one of the men was going to swear at the audience, after trying to get it to do something that was impossible to do, I would rather he had done it face on and in a loud voice, instead of turning to the side and half under his breath. There the piece did seem to lack the courage of convictions which, up to then, it had flaunted. Some people, thinking he wanted them to clap, had made a half-hearted attempt at clapping. ‘Don’t clap,’ he said. ‘It’s really annoying.’ (The performance ended with the rest of the cast, lined up at the very front of the stage, defiantly doing what the audience had not been able do.) To be sworn at, in this manner, even as a member of an audience, certainly was ‘unexpected’ and (for this reviewer at least) not disconcerting but offensive.