PARK

Concept, direction & choreography Jasmin Vardimon
Jasmin Vardimon Company
Sadler’s Wells

Jasmin Vardimon's PARK Credit: Danilo Moroni
Jasmin Vardimon's PARK Credit: Ben Harries
Jasmin Vardimon's PARK Credit: Danilo Moroni
Jasmin Vardimon's PARK Credit: Danilo Moroni
Jasmin Vardimon's PARK Credit: Danilo Moroni

PARK has its moments, but they are few. A loose patchwork of music, a loose patchwork of repetitive choreographic moves, it struck chords and produced giggles from the groups of teenagers in the audience (perhaps the ‘contains nudity and themes of an adult nature’ warning titillated them), but also saw quite a few people leave before and during the interval.

I am of the opinion that Sadler’s Wells artistic director and CEO, Alistair Spalding, can walk on water - his astute choices and programming are the best in town - but he has come down to earth with Jasmin Vardimon’s slack PARK.

Life’s flotsam and jetsam play, sleep, live, drift, collide, seduce in an urban park, where everything is possible, even a bit of fantasy, a bit of role-playing. Eight characters in search of a guiding hand… Or an editor...

The outstanding character has to be the hyperactive parkour-jumping, basketball magician, b-boying bad boy—Uroš Petronijevic is simply astonishing. No one comes close, unless it's his female equal, Maria Doulgeri.

There’s a bag lady (Nevena Jovanovic) who goes through a transformation as she peels layers of clothing off and away over the wall; a dosser (David Lloyd) in his blue sleeping bag, which becomes a mermaid’s tail; a vamp (Silke Muys) who turns into a vampiric mermaid and takes out the poor street performer (a touching Estéban Fourmi).

The mermaid sits atop a fountain, but this is not La Dolce Vita. Life is not sweet for any of them, only in their played out dreams. Street or urban park they will all get shafted and shifted in the end. The developers (Luke Burrough) are moving in, persuading investors (Aoi Nakamura) with their presentation of the park’s possibilities.

But in the meantime, in disjointed scenes lacking in dramatic tension and any sense of edginess, the park players pass the time—time without end. Or so it felt. There are some snatches of visual humour and wit to leaven the torpor, but it is kid’s play.

Play to bursts of eclectic music, a mash-up of electronica, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, ‘Singing in the Rain’, some crooning, a version of the Beatles ‘Across the Universe’, Charles Trenet’s ‘Boum!’, and more: the performers can sure hold a tune, a traffic cone coming in handy as an acoustic aid.

The cast is very good—it’s the production that needs a whipping hand—they dance, they sing, they talk (though voices are lost in the soundscape), they mug, they deserve the applause. But PARK feels like a missed opportunity, a muddle and a mess.

Creating dance theatre productions since 1997, in 2013 Sadler's Wells Associate Artist Jasmin Vardimon received the International Theatre Institute Award for Excellence in Dance, and, supported by Kent County Council, she now runs higher education programmes at Royal Holloway University London and at her home base in Ashford, Kent. This must be where her strengths lie.

And yet, and yet, there is much of promise. If only one could somehow reshuffle the pack. I’ve enjoyed her Justitia and 7734 in the past, but I failed to engage with PARK or care for any of its denizens. The reworked cliché-ridden PARK, full of life’s banalities, was first seen in 2005. I can see little reason for reviving it. 

Reviewer: Vera Liber