The Show Must Go On, Candoco Dance Company, Sadler's Wells - reviewed on 20th March
French choreographer Jérôme Bel looks at dance from unusual perspectives, questioning the beauty, meaning and sacrifice involved in making and performing great art. For example, his 2004 Veronique Doisneau reflects on the life of the title dancer as she is about to retire from the Paris Opera corps de ballet. It's an honest and unflinching account of the pain - both physical and mental - of being the company's "human decor" and never making it as a "star".
The Show Must Go On takes a more positive viewpoint, considering how popular music brings communities together and inspires dance. It commences by plunging the audience into total darkness, while 'Tonight' (from West Side Story) and several other songs are played, with lengthy pauses in between. As the lights come up, it becomes apparent that DJ Andrej Gubanov, who's seated at the front of the auditorium, is a rather retro playing-music-in-your-bedroom type of DJ. He's taking each CD in turn from its case, putting it into a CD player and finding the right track. It's a far cry from the current digital age and the simple sounds of the CD player buttons being pressed and plastic cases clicking open bring back happy memories.
|Photo: Pedro Machado|
Finally, 21 disabled and non-disabled performers come onto stage and stand still, before dancing to 'I like to move it'. One man repeatedly removes and puts on his t-shirt and jeans whilst a woman violently gyrates her pelvis. Other cast members shake their heads, wiggle their bottoms and shrug their shoulders. Some of the dancers are professional whilst others aren't, but the vibrancy of movement is infectious.
The Show Must Go On continues with more lyrical dancing to 'Ballerina girl', a full-cast 'Macarena', a humorous 'Private dancer' stint onstage for the DJ, and a Leonardo Di Caprio and Kate Winslet-inspired response to 'My heart will go on'. Then plunged into blackness once again, the Sadler's Wells audience sang along with 'Imagine', 'Yellow submarine' and 'The sound of silence'. There's too much time when the audience is left alone with nothing happening onstage, but when the performers are present, it's hard not to love Bel's creation.
In a glorious finale, the performers wear headphones, listening to a variety of different songs and shouting out at key moments, resulting in a melange of lyrics from "I'm still standing" and "take me to church" to "we are family" and many others. Then, to 'Killing me softly', the cast mouth the words before falling to the floor as if dead. But of course, the show must go on and as the title song plays, the cast take a well-deserved bow.