Micro: A Physical Concert
Compagnie Dernière Minute and the Gate Theatre
The Gate Theatre, Notting Hill
On a fur lined stage, filled with instruments, slowly the amps and guitars, drums and keyboards begin to shuffle towards you, seemingly of their own accord. Finally arms and limbs begin to reach out until the cast of four emerge on stage, among what have become seemingly animate instruments. The four figures, dressed in traditional rock band black with emblazoned t-shirts, are described as 'pre-musical creatures' in the programme, and they 'search for the sounds they need to feed them'. With an atmosphere of exciting exploration, everything is new and these curious characters pick up the instruments, play with them, test them, fight with them, and eventually find their way to creating awe-inspiring sounds.
Is it theatre? Well, yes and no. Strictly speaking: not really, as there are minimal 'characters', 'narrative' and 'plot', but it's certainly a fantastic performance, and the music, when they get to it, makes you want to get up and dance. What makes Compagnie Dernière Minute so great is their playful attitude - some of the humour they create within the piece is both impressive, endearing (which is a word one wouldn't usually associate with a black clad rock band) and joyful. The performers make you laugh, smile and thoroughly enjoy their attitude of creative play - by the end of the show, you genuinely feel as if you're far closer to the real characters on stage, than sometimes one can ever be in theatre. The drummer's (Gwenael Drapeau) brilliant manic giggling will have you laughing and loving them all the way home, but every single performer stands out in their own right. Watching one man (Julien Lepreux) play the guitar (properly) and the piano at the same time, is seriously impressive. The female singer/performer (Melanie Chartreux) has an astounding voice, as well as an amazing movement vocabulary.
Naturally there is a lot of equipment with any band, and sometimes some of the set-up time takes too long, although director Pierre Rigal has worked to include experimental sounds and some movement during this time. On a larger stage there would have inevitably been room for more movement, but the intimacy of the piece on The Gate stage really works.
However it is hard to fully call this as much of a 'physical concert', as it is an experimental room for creative sounds with some movement. But pieces like the clash of the 'pre-historic' guitars - like a musical version of a scene from Highlander - is fantastic, and achieved with brilliant humour and authenticity. There's something about these guys that just makes you love their style.
If you're less a theatre-goer and more a gig attender, you'll thoroughly enjoy this, and if you're an open minded creative with a love of performance, you'll celebrate this cross-over piece. If you're a pros-arch tradionalist, you're likely to be less impressed, and this isn't for you. But if you're undecided? Go and see it, I guarantee you'll have a good time.
Reviewer: Sacha Voit