review

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
The return of 2 Dance, a showcase of choreography and dance works conceived for television, makes BBC2 a less predictable place once again, a channel on which the medium can occasionally stretch its expressive legs. Indeed, one of the few consistent pleasures of the series is its offer of visual serendipity, even if you sometimes have to pay dearly in patience for your pleasures. Last night, for instance, the inexplicable frisson generated by Storm followed rather less success- ful exercises in television dance. In Cover-up, Victoria Marks gestured and mugged in a snow-storm of letters, a performance which was undermined by some rather clumsy special effects, execution never quite matching idea. Echo, a piece inspired by Anish Kapoor's sculptural music boxes, may well have been an articulate contribution to dance language (I might as well confess that I couldn't tell). However, it didn't quite achieve the cross-over clarity that the best pieces can, seducing the dance- illiterate with familiar scenes that suddenly turn strange; the attractive, tinkling inconsequence of its music-box soundtrack could too easily be taken to stand for the piece itself.

But Storm, which began with a conventional thriller image of a distressed woman running through a rainstorm, managed to arrest you with gestures unseen before - in particular, the way the principal dancer would sometines become locked to the scenery by a hand that had a life of its own. Perhaps this was a physical pun on the word "gripping", but whatever its precise meaning, it delivered a little thrill to watch it, the emotional extravagance of the dance suddenly snagged by a recalcitrant limb. The image of diners eating impassively, their hair blown horizontal by a gale, was also strangely satisfying, though I wouldn't care to explain to a jury exactly why.

Enter Achilles, on Wednesday night, was a more ambitious project altogether, a 50-minute work in which a group of men strutted and swaggered their way through various rituals of male bonding. It was described in the Radio Times as an examination of "the history of female oppression in a male-dominated society", which I guess explains the inflatable sex-doll which ends up being savagely punctured with a broken bottle. Enter Achilles was full of bad ideas like this - most notably the effete young man who turns out to be dressed in a baggy Superman outfit - and the pub setting meant that it at times reminded you of the Guinness advert in which a man prats about while waiting for the head to form on his pint. But it delivered some wonderful things, too, especially when it managed to confer grace on the graceless, turning the postures of male pecking order into a sinuous group choreography. It saw how easily taunting becomes a duet of aggression and submission, how friendly male rough-housing always has an invisible question-mark attached to it - which of us would win if this combat was real? The soundtrack was terrific, too, changing the mood as abruptly and regularly as a pub juke-box.

The Guinness dance ad also featured in The Freddie Starr Show (ITV), as the subject of a rather lame pastiche. This was typical of a programme in which physical comedy is at a premium, perhaps because when Starr does open his mouth and utter sound, he is as coherent as a man who has just been hit with a length of two-by-four. The rather rambling nature of his stage-show has been tidied up through editing into a succession of quick-fire sight gags and sketches, most of them strongly reminiscent of the circus. Starr does an incompetent acrobat routine, teases the audience with a live boa-constrictor, and falls over while dressed as a multi-coloured chicken. As a clown, he's actually quite good, but the Tommy Cooper impersonation halfway through was injudicious, a reminder of a far greater predecessor.

Comments