Choreographed and performed by Tedd Robinson
10 Gates Dancing, co-production with the National Arts Centre (Ottawa) and New Dance Horizons (Regina)
REDD is a short, sweet and underachieving solo which, despite Tedd Robinson's background in contemporary dance, rarely uses movement as effectively as language. Divided into three segments- Reading, Dreaming and Dying- it sketches out ideas about the life of the artist, orientalism, Buddhism, Scotland and the rigours of nature without ever clarifying what these things mean to Robinson..
Throughout REDD, Robinson teeters between the comic and the tragic. Wrapping himself in sheets, he is sometimes a Buddhist hermit, a frightened child, an Egyptian mummy or absurdist clown. He never really escapes the appearance of a slightly seedy slap-stick comedian: balancing a very large stick on his head, he recalls both the stillness of the monk and the caricatures of foreigners so common in 1970s comedy. Dreaming is the most deliberately amusing section - the crowd merely titters- as he mimes a kitsch geisha to opera, before disrobing to reveal a kilt. The comedy is slight, almost racist in its exaggeration of oriental behaviour, and Robinson's technique seems weak and inexpressive.
Apart from failing to settle the mood and say anything resonant, REDD is an amiable work that does showcase Robinson's talents. Reading is a pleasure, as he tells a story of a time spent living in the countryside: his rich, modulated voice belies his pale skin and squat physique and the pregnant hesitance in his delivery makes it wonderfully unclear whether he is reading his own or someone else's experiences. The simple episodes - smoking out bats, adjusting to hunting season - give way to a deeper appreciation of life: Robinson acknowledges that his attempts to steer clear of brutality were sentimental and that nature demands violence.
Dying features the stick-balancing trick: he then spins the stick around on his head, explaining to the audience how balancing things on his head allowed him to understand the difference between right and wrong. He goes on to wrap himself in paper, evoking a strange ritual that, in some way, connects his performance to a hermit-like retreat. Connections are vaguely made between religious vocation and artistic expression, and a theme slowly emerges. The body is distracted by movement, Robinson seems to say, so that the mind can get on with important stuff. A series of striking images, this is physical theatre as a source-book: somebody will use his picturesque poses in a more emphatic context.
REDD is charming, but forgettable. Robinson is searching for something to replace his lost dance technique, but doesn't quite find anything. By trotting out unconnected interests, he does little more than impress his own coolness upon the audience: a strangely arrogant attitude for a work that possesses so little depth.
Reviewer: Gareth Vile