7734, the title of Jasmin Vardimon's latest dance-theatre piece, looks like "hell" if you read it upside down. Or rather, it does in some fonts: it works on the poster, but not as I'm typing this. Looking at the Holocaust and how we understand it, 7734 focuses on different points of view. Like that title, it strains for effects that don't quite work.
At the start, a man in evening dress "conducts" a recording of Wagner. In front of him, the stage is covered in sheets, which ripple in time as dancers move under them. When the sheets are pulled off, we see piles of clothes; another sheet falls at the back of the stage, revealing the observation tower of a concentration camp. The conductor then explains that while he seems to order the orchestra, he too is at the service of "truth and beauty". As a version of the debate on Wagner, art and Nazism, it's simplistic. A guard gives his uniform jacket to one of the inmates – who promptly becomes oppressor instead of oppressed, gunning down her fellows.
Vardimon, born in Israel but now based in Britain, has points to make in 7734, but she makes them bluntly. Her piece lacks precise imagery; she evokes a concentration camp literally, then talks around the edges of it. The tower becomes a holiday lookout post, with tourists admiring the perfection of the view. Then they wish they could edit out ugly buildings; finally, ugly or annoying people.
Later, the same tourists debate art and its meanings, telling the story of a wedding photographer who zoomed in only on the mistakes of the day. The debate is presented as naturalistic conversation, but it's painfully stagey. Vardimon's performers make self-conscious actors, working themselves up to clumsy, artificial rages. They're more fluent, and fearless, as dancers, diving down poles or into difficult lifts to make Vardimon's points.
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