Ragnarök and Morceaux Choisis
X Factor Dance Company
Customs House, South Shields
For the second time in two weeks we have a first for South Shields' Customs House - on 1st February it was the first NE production of Sarah Kane's Blasted; on 13th it was the first visit to the area of Edinburgh's X Factor Dance Company - and for the second time we saw an audience which is totally new to the venue. New programmer Kathryn Bradley is certainly making her presence felt and bringing the kind of theatre to South Tyneside that it has never seen before.
This programme consists of two very different pieces. Artistic director Alan Greig's Ragnarök is the first: taking its title from the Norse myth of the battle at the end of the world from which a new world emerges, it is characterised by a fluid style in which events and movements flow into each other, the one arising from and merging with the other, as, in the myth, Idavol survives the destruction of Asgard. But this is not a large scale, apoclyptic vision: it is, perhaps, Ragnarök on a human scale.
The second piece is Philippe Decouflé's Morceaux Choisis (Choice Cuts), created from parts of his existing work, alongside work specially created for X Factor. Decouflé, of course, is most famous for his choreography of the opening and closing ceremonies of the 1992 Olympics which incorporated dance, circus, film and much more in a kind of huge theatricality.
Morceaux Choisis, too, is intensely theatrical and Decouflé's eye for visual effect is clearly shown: the large blinking eye carried on and spotlighted at the back of the stage at one point and his use of shadow play on a huge cloth which spreads across the whole width of the stage is a typical "decouflerie". There were, too, the occasional moments when one felt that Decouflé was paying witty tribute to other choreographers with echoes of their styles hinted at. Indeed, the piece is amusing and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny and was greeted with huge enthusiasm by the audience.
The six strong (three men, three women) company capture the spirit of both pieces, especially in the complex intertwinings of Alan Greig's piece and the precision demanded by Morceaux Choisis.
The tour continues into March to Bathgate, Aberdeen, Elgin, Fortrose and Musselburgh.
Reviewer: Peter Lathan