Dance : Not exactly glad to be gay

THE POSTER shows a man with his head in a polythene bag, features pressed flat in an ugly, ecstatic gasp. You read that this is a dancer who treats his own body like a lump of meat. Yet nothing can prepare you for the experience of Nigel Charnock. It's not the obscenity that's shocking, nor the lack of dance, but the exposure of Nigel himself: Nigel unzipped, Nigel unbound, Nigel's very existence arrayed on a slab. It is not a pretty sight, but it's riveting.

Hell Bent is the last part of a trilogy of experimental solo works created by Charnock since he left DV8 Physical Theatre (think "deviate") five years ago. It was there that he developed his ideas on non-aesthetic dance - for him, making beautiful shapes and patterns with the body got in the way of meaning. Now he has gone a step further, and introduced spoken text. Or rather, he lets his tongue do most of the dancing.

Words pour from him like slops from a bucket. "I am not enough I am not enough I'm not tall enough I'm not thin enough I'm not fat enough I'm not fascinating enough or famous enough or young enough old enough white or black enough blue enough true enough wild mild flirty dirty cuddly snuggly bitchy kitschy titty or witty enough . . ." - out it comes, a Joycean thesaurus of alternatives for the way he feels. We can believe all or none of it. What comes across is the aching, yearning hopelessness of being - and specifically of being Nigel Charnock.

There is a storyline, and this is the weak part. A young gay man (Charnock) is jilted in a letter by his lover. He works nights as a transvestite, belting out Shirley Bassey numbers and porn-dancing in a shiny black dress. By day he mooches about his shabby bedsit wondering where, when and if he will ever find true love. Finally, he tops himself. This sounds awful, and in a way it is, but Charnock's public honesty burns through it like a lit fuse.

The explosions, when they happen, are sometimes verbal, sometimes physical. At one point Charnock hurls himself repeatedly to the floor, bouncing up each time in order to deliver another flesh-battering blow - 20, 30 times. The effect is shattering. Another climax takes the form of a speeded- up charade, Charnock assigning one action per word ("man", "woman", "hate", "love") and working them into an increasingly frenetic sequence of statements that make your head spin. He can dance beautifully, but beauty rarely serves his purpose - except in one sequence on a bed, when (presumably dreaming) Charn-ock "dances" in slow motion on his back with a large crucifix for a partner, striking poses from Old Masters.

Charnock's material is too explicit and his homosexual view too particular ever to find a wide audience. Yet in 85 minutes he communicates something essential about the human condition. The slogan "Glad to be gay" has never seemed less appropriate.

The appeal of the Birmingham Royal Ballet, meanwhile, knows no bounds. The company spent the week at Sadler's Wells, its former home, showcasing the breadth of its work under its soon-to-retire director, Sir Peter Wright. The triple bill was such a rich and varied feast that it seemed almost greedy to have it all at one sitting.

Matthew Hart's Street (1993), a work strongly influenced by the feel, rather than the choreography of West Side Story, made the lightest fare. Ballet and boogie-woogie are an odd mix, and despite the elasticity of the dancing with its hip-thrusts and Seventies-disco gestures, it felt uneasy. Putting sleazy alley-cats on points has no point.

Balanchine's Prodigal Son is the last of the works made for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, and BRB's production captures its 1920s exoticism. Michael O'Hare makes a splendidly virile tearaway, portraying extreme youth in quick and glancing movements, and leaps so high you suspect a hidden springboard. Monica Zamora's Siren is weirdly alluring in veined tights and a long cerise train that she ties and unties repeatedly around her thighs to allow movement. Balanchine knew a bit about tasteful titillation.

Finally, Pineapple Poll, the G&S romp devised by John Cranko for the Festival of Britain, summed up the joy of this Best of British company. When David Bintley takes over in August he will inherit a group at the peak of its crowd-pleasing powers.

Nigel Charnock: Drill Hall, WC1, 071-637 8270, to 26 Feb.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
A waxwork of Jane Austen has been unveiled at The Jane Austen Centre in Bath

books
Arts and Entertainment
Britney Spears has been caught singing without Auto-Tune

music
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Caral Barat of The Libertines performs on stage at British Summer Time Festival at Hyde Park

music
Arts and Entertainment
Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea perform on stage at the Billboard Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Zina Saro-Wiwa

art
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice