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If We Go On (Tour - Birmingham)

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
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‘We would like to show you something, but not sure how’ is the ambiguous statement that accompanies this most recent piece from Vincent Dance Theatre, a renowned dance theatre company which started back in the early nineties. Unfortunately, the ambiguity of the statement is only confused and clouded in the performance; never solved, nor explicitly explored.

The main concept of the piece seems to want to display to an audience what it is to be an actor/dancer on stage; and answer the question is it ever possible to be ‘natural’ on stage? What is ‘natural’? Are we ever our ‘natural’ selves even off stage?

It has to be said that one is convinced by the piece that the answer to the majority of these questions, in the majority of circumstances, is no. However, the way in which the company explores the questions is uncomfortably forced and, at times, unimaginative.

In order to answer the questions they had set themselves, and do it in the practical way of ‘showing us’ that their accompanying statement describes, one would expect that the ensemble on stage may choose to play with the ‘real’ and the ‘per formative’. However, the emphasis is always on the latter; the dialogue is all scripted, the dance is choreographed, and there is no hint of improvisation or impulse happenings.

Surely, then, this is a biased reflection of how a performer may feel or is presented on stage; because an actor must feel different emotions every night, mustn’t they?

The brief glimpses of dance choreography that we are treated to are brilliantly captivating and fluid, even if they somehow feel a bit thrown into the action; as do many of the random snippets of scenes.

The accompaniment of the playing of live instruments is also a very satisfying side of the piece that forces one to engage with the actions played out on stage.

There is a clever, juxtaposing statement which is made at the beginnings of the performance in which the actress states ‘there will be no clichés’ (along with a number of other no’s) which is contradictory in the fact that everything in the piece is ultimately a cliché of some sort. Whether this is intentional or not, it helps to build upon the company’s examination of being ‘real’ and what is ever real or new in contemporary theatre.

In short, If We Go On’s’ examination feels somewhat one dimensional and unfinished, needing an element of live exploration to breathe more life into its performance.

- Ben Wooldridge


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