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Pulse 2012. The final week. Day one

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“To sleep, perchance to dream,” said Hamlet. But if your dreams were like Jake Ingram-Dodd’s, you probably wouldn’t ever sleep again. Robert Clark’s two-hand contemporary dance piece Badlands pitches Ingram-Dodd against Victoria Hoyland playing a couple whose love story won’t go exactly how the participants want it to.

Littered with a plethora of 1950s cultural references, Badlands treads a fine line between gothic comedy and unnerving drama but does so with self-confidence and a respect for its audience that many performance works in this year’s Pulse Fringe Festival in Ipswich have lacked.

Beneath the twee exterior of Hoyland’s character runs passion that will only ever be satiated by the rougher hand of her after-dark, faux lover. Their relationship is toxic, ultimately destructive, and they don’t care.

It might be argued that Ingram-Dodd doesn’t possess a classical male dancer’s build, however his imposing height commands the performance space (despite being clad in pyjamas for most of the performance) as he growls at and snares all around him – fellow performer and audience alike.

Hoyland does an exquisite line in chilling delivery. Accomplished in the field of ballet she may be ,but she shifts from haunting actress to gritty physicality and back again with consummate ease. A scene where she visits her lover in his dreams and starts tearing out his vital organs is magnificent.

Badlands – while not described as a "work-in-progress" – is still in its early days and could use the nimblest of trims here and there. However, for all that, Robert Clark has created a sleek piece of conceptual dance that is beautifully executed by two mesmerising dancers.

If you’re a parent of teenagers, you’d be well advised to skip to the next review; what follows isn’t for the faint-hearted. Among the aftermath of a party against which the orgies of Ancient Rome pale into insignificance, four young people – Jack Brett, Lorna Garside, Aiden Napier, and Steve Withers – gather together what’s left of their heads.

They’ve chugged the booze, they’ve swallowed the drugs, they’ve enjoyed sex with anything on two legs (and occasionally four), they’ve vomited into every receptacle in the house, and now it’s time to pay the come-down ferryman.

The New Wolsey Young Company’s Party Piece first saw the light of day in Pulse 2011 and it’s lost none of its potency or poignancy. For this isn’t simply a “Skins-on-stage” depiction of how big and clever it is to be 19, full of Ketamine and looking at the world through the beer goggles of irresponsibility.

At the heart of Party Piece is a vulnerability of youth that is balanced beautifully against the cocky self-assuredness. We do have to wait until the silly stunts and alcohol-fuelled bravado pass before we see these chinks in the invincible armour of adolescence but it’s only as this frailty is exposed, we realise that we’re not idly witnessing hidden weaknesses coming to the surface. They’re being shown to us by people who are not as out of control as we’d like to believe.

The attitudes and language apparent in Party Piece may not be for those of a delicate disposition but it is a real-life reflection of a generation who will all-too-soon be the voice of disapproval. We should relish their irreverence while we can.

And so to the final work of the evening, Ira Brand’s Keine Angst. Somewhere, deep, deep down, there’s a germ of an idea in Brand’s piece. It has yet to make it to the surface and announce itself. As I was leaving the New Wolsey Studio, I overheard another audience member remark: “Not so much Keine Angst as ‘many angsts’”, and that is indeed true. Keine Angst is a bit of a mash-up of quite a few disparate ideas, strung together by a very genial performance, but holistically disappointing.

What Brand seems to be missing here is the fact that concepts that mean a huge amount to her will have little relevance to an audience not privy to her thought processes. So disjointed is Keine Angst that one fully expected it to be a work-in-progress but this is presented as a fully-formed work, supposedly on the theme of fear. Brand is not without skill as a performer, that much is undeniable. What is in question here is the merit of this particular work.


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