Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Blush

Created by Wim Vanderkeybus and Ultima Vez
Music by David Eugene Edwards. Text by Peter Verhelst & Ultima Vez
Newcastle Playhouse and touring
(2004)

It is hard to describe Blush. It consists of extremely physical and violent dance, text, original music, video sequences with which the performers interact, and a set which is built - and destroyed - by the performers. It deals with love in all its aspects. It is performed by five men and five women. And the whole is undoubtedly much greater than the sum of its parts.

From the very beginning, when we are confronted by what is essentially a rape of a sleeping man by a woman, the audience is bombarded by a succession of images, many of which assault the senses, with the cast in violent movement filling the stage so that the eye is drawn from group to group, unable to settle anywhere. The mood changes and the piece becomes sexually highly charged, then changes again to calmness. There is confrontation with members of the audience, which is at one point showered with a bucketful of pig food (actually biscuits, but it represents pig food). This succession of images is unrelenting throughout the almost two hours of the production and sweeps the audience along, and it is only afterwards, looking back, that (for this reviewer, at any rate) understanding emerges.

The use of video is fascinating: an underwater world is projected onto a screen made up of slats like vertical blinds and the performers dive through it, immediately appearing on-screen underwater. Given the speed at which the performers are moving and the complex nature of the dance, the fact that every single "pass" through the screen was absolutely spot-on was, in itself, a source of amazement - and admiration for their skill and the hours of rehearsal which must have gone into just that sequence alone.

The phrase Total Theatre is often used nowadays as a kind of catch-all for what is more properly described as physical theatre. Blush shows just what Total Theatre is: accept no substitutes!

Sadly the Newcastle date was the last of the UK tour which had taken the show to Coventry, Nottingham, Sheffield, Sadler's Wells, Truro and Glasgow. If it comes back, see it: it will alter your perception of what theatre is. Until then, you can get a flavour of the show on its website at www.blushtour.co.uk.

Reviewer: Peter Lathan