Everything All of the Time
Matt Fenton and Yandass Ndlovu
Contact and Lauren Banks
Contact returns after a substantial break when a pause for renovation was extended still further by the pandemic. The theatre has pursued a range of audiences over the years, once linked to the University of Manchester it currently seeks to attract a young, less academic, audience. The Contact Young Company is a practical demonstration of the company’s commitment offering opportunities to youngsters, to quote from Everything All of the Time, "born in boxes" and not expected to aspire towards artistic fulfilment. Reopening the theatre with a performance by the Young Company is, therefore, very much a statement of intent and a re-dedication of purpose.
Everything All of the Time combines modern dance with recitals. It is very much an ensemble piece and does not try to showcase individual performers. The cast are dressed in uniform nondescript exercise clothes. The sense of laid-back anonymity spills over into Yandass Ndlovu’s choreography—a solo utilising a stripper’s dance pole becomes a display of athleticism rather than eroticism.
As one might expect, the pandemic is referenced during the show which opens with a simple welcome to the audience. One of the sequences is entitled "Hands, Face, Space" and throughout there is a sense of relief—the troupe taking the time to hug. Inclusivity is promoted in an understated manner with the cast moving offstage and action taking place within the audience.
Modern dance can resemble simple exercise routines and, indeed, Ndlovu’s choreography does include dances which look very like warm up / combat movements. Ndlovu keeps his powder dry opening with simple movements—the troupe seated and forming shapes with their hands—before progressing to more complex, demanding pieces. This allows a sense of release after confinement to build, the dancing becoming faster and more exciting and the dancers more exuberant. The approach showcases not just the skill of the cast but the potential of the refurbished theatre, gradually removing curtains to reveal the surprising size available and a rear wall perfect for screen projections.
It is common for spoken word pieces to be autobiographical. Director Matt Fenton and dramaturg Sam Holley-Horseman take a less conventional approach. The impact of some of the routines arise from what is unsaid as much as what is spoken. A silent, longing look by a cast member adds poignancy to a love monologue spoken by a colleague.
The Young Company even manages to find humour in the pandemic and the balancing of trivial issues with significant events. A verbal summation of the events of the last year is performed in such a cheerful, breathless rush as to resemble a stand-up comedy routine.
Everything All of the Time makes demands of the audience. Anyone hoping to relieve the stress of the pandemic with a simple plot or a show with a beginning, middle and end is out of luck. But then Contact is always about the future as much as the present and by demonstrating the potential of the Contact Young Company they offer a hope of progress which, after the last year, is most definitely welcome.
Reviewer: David Cunningham