"You didn't read the reviews," a dancer tells the audience early on in Blush, "or you wouldn't be here." Well, no. Wim Vandekeybus's production for Ultima Vez is two hours of running about and ranting, with bouts of frog-juggling and simulated sex.
The frog turns up early. A woman comes on with it dangling from one hand, twitching and apparently real. A man takes it from her, pops it into a blender, then gives her the juice to drink. It's sleight of hand, but I worry for the frog.
Blush is dance theatre at its most self-indulgent. The subject is, loosely, love and its effect on the body; Vandekeybus promises references to the Orpheus myth, but they must be deeply disguised. The dancers were chosen for their recklessness as performers, but that only means their readiness to scream, strip or be humiliated.
We're deep in Pina Bausch territory, though without Bausch's strokes of theatrical imagination.
One woman breaks a glass, then proclaims with increasing satisfaction that she'll never wake up, never get a tattoo on her groin, never. Another woman asks for money from the audience, promising to dance or sing in return. Someone in the front row, thus bullied, finally gives her something; the other dancers line up to glare reproachfully at him.
Vandekeybus trained in film, and tends to put it into his dance works. For Blush, the screen is made of elastic strips. Dancers can dive right through it, vanishing, then reappearing on screen, swimming underwater. It could be striking, and the filmed effects of light and water are rather beautiful. But Vandekeybus is clumsily determined to repeat his effects. Every on-screen splash is set to a cymbal crash. The dancers keep jumping in and out, giving you plenty of time to see how the illusion works.
Once even Vandekeybus is thoroughly bored of the water scenes, the dancers pile blocks in front of the screen and settle down to rant.
A woman runs around grunting, while the others throw biscuits at her. One man begs to be buggered with the banana he has ready peeled. Another strips and trots about the stage, genitals flopping; later a woman strips, and is slapped. There's plenty of on-stage abuse. A man holds one of the women down, pushing a microphone into her mouth while a second man thrusts his hand between her legs.
The dancers leave off shouting to run around the stage, sometimes jumping or turning cartwheels. They shin up thick poles and build towers with the blocks. More film sequences show squealing pigs, bamboo groves, lots of frogs.
The music for Blush is performed by David Eugene Edwards and his Goth-country-rock band. At Sadler's Wells, and at several other touring dates, the band play live. It's shocking how little impact that has: the band grind on, the dancers scream on, more or less independently.
Hall for Cornwall, Truro, tonight; Theatre Royal, Glasgow, 17 & 18 February; Playhouse, Newcastle, 20 & 21 Feb (www.blushtour.co.uk)