Knowing nothing more than the title and its origins prior to the performance, Hofesh Shechter Company’s Grand Finale is a spectacular blend of electronic soundscape, live classical musicians, evocative lighting and choreography that is part contemporary, part trance and part traditional.
We open to a bleak, dark stage, where huge black blocks, which resemble tombstones, shadow the musicians playing in the background. Ten culturally and artistically diverse dancers portray the survivors, if you will, of the sinking Titanic; while the quintet of musicians continue to play in sweet harmony, oblivious to the disaster that surrounds them. The mini orchestra is seamless as they move around the stage, inconspicuously and almost magically, with as much grace as the dancers themselves.
The dancers. Oh the dancers. I’ve never seen an ensemble interpret the idiosyncrasies, nuances and manic silence of choreography quite like these incredible artists. Their language of movement, authenticity of storytelling through their bodies..it is quite the experience. One I’ve not felt like this before. While Shechter’s choreography has repetitive phrasing, it never feels monotonous. Quite the opposite really. The use of space, syncopation, chaos and stillness felt raw, real and seamless.
For me, the most impactful and dramatic scene was the repositioning of, dragging and waltzing dead bodies. You could feel the pulsating pain and sorrow hum from the audience and reverberate throughout the theatre. Interval was marked with a slightly comical set up of a dancer slumped in a chair, in front of the curtain with an INTERVAL sign hanging over his neck. Where he remained until his fellow dancers removed him by dragging him off stage.
Tom Scutt created contrasting costumes for Act 1 and Act 2; muted, earthy tones for the first half and modern, street wear in the second half. This to me signified that no matter where you are in place or time, the same issues will arise and need to be addressed. The life cycle of collapse and rebuild. Scutt is also the talent behind the seemingly simple, but imposing set design.
A notable mention to Tom Visser, for his irrefutable talent in lighting design. His specific style of lighting don’t just enhance the performance, it shapes and performance and how the audience views it. Especially in the closing tableaux of love, despair and death.
The second half begins with a light-hearted jig by our musical quintet, with audience interaction, and a dancer lying lifeless in front of the proscenium curtain before we are jolted back to Shechter’s reality with said dancer being dragged screaming feet first as the curtain opens and the scene turns manic.
I felt such a deep connection to the choreography and movement – where at times it seemed light hearted and almost jovial to confronting and quite visceral.
Shechter rightfully should be applauded by the contemporary theatre world for being so boundary-breaking, original and veracious in his creative process. Not just as a choreographer, but as a composer, director and dramaturg. Bravo sir.
I cannot wait to see what he dreams up next.
Happy theatre travels…
This review also features on the Theatre Travels website – www.theatretravels.org