His latest dance piece to hit London, Satisfaction, is having a very short 11-day West End run and promises to deliver “sex, dance and rock ‘n’ roll”. Arguably, it only really gives the audience one of the three, but it at least makes a spirited attempt at the other two. The “rock ‘n’ roll” is provided by what seems like a Rolling Stones Greatest Hits parade, with “Sympathy for the Devil”, “Time Is on My Side”, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, “Wild Horses” and “Streets of Love” amongst the classics blared out through speakers in the auditorium.
Now I quite like the Rolling Stones, but I can’t help feeling that the addition of a live band and singer in the background would have done a lot more to energise and enthuse the production. It would also have given the audience something to watch when they got bored of looking at the same patch of stage.
Still, the biggest problem here, theatrically speaking, is the lack of narrative drive. The dance numbers could so easily exist without the music they’re accompanied by. Therefore, the very meaning of the “dancical” isn’t apparent. The parts just don’t fit together in any coherent whole. The choreography doesn’t tell the story of any individual songs clearly enough, let alone maintain a collective or progressing theme throughout the evening.
As such, Satisfaction bears no relation to previous West End “dancical” offerings like Susan Stroman’s Contact or last year’s Movin' Out, in which Twyla Tharp reinvigorated Billy Joel’s back catalogue with so much more success around a group of friends affected by the Vietnam War. As an audience member here, I was left wondering why I was sitting through what was essentially a fairly pointless, and only mildly entertaining (particularly the numbers towards the end), Rolling Stones dance marathon.
The dancers of the Peter Schaufuss Ballet themselves, many of whom trained in London at the Royal Ballet School or Central School of Ballet, are clearly very capable of executing the choreography. Martin Dutton in particular stands out in “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” as well as in all the ensemble pieces. So does Josef Veseley, who probably gets closest to accurately communicating emotions in the songs “As Tears Go By” and “This Place Is Empty”.
Production-wise, the set (on which Gerald Scarfe’s caricatures of the Stones serve no purpose except as a pre-show and interval backdrop), costume and lighting design - all by the choreographer/director Peter Schaufuss, a man of many, variable talents - is nothing special but does the job.
Alas, Satisfaction is not at all satisfying.
- Tom Atkins