For many years now the Black Rock area of Brighton seafront has been a derelict wasteland but tonight, as several hundred people gather on the grandstand seating, its desolate appearance, framed by graffiti-covered concrete walls and with the lights of Brighton Marina as a backdrop, will turn out to be just perfect.
With the strong wind blowing in off the sea, and the relentless drizzle finally abating, the audience is gathering to see Motor Show, the latest production by Requardt and Rosenberg, generously supported by Without Walls, the consortium of eight leading UK arts festivals that is bringing some of the best new outdoor dance and performance to seven UK arts festivals this year.
Around the edge of the arena, a series of spotlights enables the audience to see a burned out car, a lamppost and a telephone kiosk but, for now, that is all we see. From high on the grandstand a woman in an elaborate headdress makes her way into the arena and sings – yet, to the many onlookers from high on the cliff top, there is no sound. The audience, however, are all wearing headphones and, in their own private performance, each hears the beautiful voice quite clearly.
From the far end of the performance space, a car approaches. The woman dances but, as the car pulls up behind her she stops, climbs in, and it drives off. The sound effects that are being pumped through the headphones are timed with absolute perfection and even the footsteps of a person walking a hundred metres away are as clear as a bell, as are the sounds coming from the interiors of the three cars that have now arrived in the arena.
Trying to describe what happens over the next 90 minutes would be totally futile and would do a disservice to this fabulous piece of dance theatre. The imagery that is created is sometimes romantic, sometimes surreal, sometimes erotic, but always absolutely fascinating. We watch as the lives of the characters unfold against an increasingly sinister background.
Each member of the cast impresses and, as an ensemble, they are totally immersed in the performance they are giving. For a very short while I remove my headphones and realise that, although I am listening to thumping rock music, those dancing are doing so in apparently total silence. As I replace my headphones, I simply assume that they must have miniature versions in their own ears, as no amount of rehearsal would enable them to keep such perfect timing.
The climax of the piece is full of drama, fabulous costumes and yet more surreal images and, handing back the headphones as we leave the arena, each of us goes home with our own, individual, experience of this brilliant work.