Dance: Tough going

GRAEME MILLER THE PLACE THEATRE LONDON

MY GOODNESS, did Graeme Miller, "composer, director and installation artist", give us a hard time. The title of his piece, Country Dance, and his announced collaboration with the choreographer Matthew Hawkins, seemed to promise at least some dance content. But in fact this was minimal - ghostly fragments of folk dance culminating in a couple of brief sequences towards the end. Instead we got movement theatre with running, hysterics and speech. Fine, except that it is thin material stretched thin and the 100 minutes tick away at a snail's pace.

The banality of shouted phrases such as "arterial road" and "limited waiting zone" may faithfully represent urban life, but it is ineffectual theatre. Game-like sections such as the line of people voicing customer complaints - "the coffin is one foot too short", "these condoms are lemon-flavoured" - suggest they were created through group improvisations, a la Pina Bausch. But this is fourth-rate Bausch, unimaginative and long- winded.

Clearly the cast are city-dwellers: stressed, mobile-phone-toting, deafened by the roar of overhead aircraft. A man with a stethoscope attends to collapsing people. Later he comes to resemble an elephant, torso swaying, stethoscope dangling, since Miller's purpose is also to remind us of our primitive roots and the natural world. Scratch a lager lout, he seems to be saying, and you will find a tribal animal, which is all very true and potentially interesting and deserves a more articulate exposition.

Graeme Miller made me want to scream. And where was he? After a fleeting appearance at the start, he returns three-quarters of the way in carrying a briefcase. In it is a sheep's skull, but a noose would be more fitting. By financing this enterprise, the Place Theatre has given him a rope to hang himself.

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