Gardenia, Sadler's Wells, London
Friday 01 July 2011
The performers of Gardenia aren't quite playing themselves. The latest work from Les Ballets C de la B is danced by a cast of retired transvestites, men returning to the stage after years away. They change from suits into wigs and sequins, building up to a stylised stage act. Yet very few of these characters emerge as distinct personalities. There's a Liza Minnelli, a white-gowned Hollywood blonde, but they're all blurred into the same melancholy-cabaret type.
Gardenia was inspired by a documentary about the closing of a transvestite cabaret in Barcelona. The idea came from actress Vanessa van Durme, Belgium's first transsexual, who also performs a leading role. C de la B founder Alain Platel, with director Frank van Laecke, focus on the process of transformation, with repeated onstage costume changes.
The show opens with the cast in male suits. Van Durme welcomes the audience to the Gardenia's last show, holds a minute's silence and introduces her colleagues. Her patter is cheerfully lewd: heads of state wanted this character's knickers, a German performer, during the war, "resisted everything except the Russian army".
To Ravel's Bolero, the performers undress, revealing colourful patterned frocks under their drab suits. They'll freeze in held poses, matter of fact at first, but increasingly theatrical as they shake out their skirts.
Van Durme works her poses, drawing laughs from the audience; the others are much more neutral. Most C de la B works are nakedly confessional, dancers describing or acting out their needs and neuroses. With Gardenia, Platel and Van Laecke simply put these characters on stage, with the baggage of their real history. Most remain blank.
Even the numbers are distanced. Soloists mime or sing along to Steven Prengels's music, a remix of pop, show tunes and classical music. The final number brings everyone on stage to "Over the Rainbow", played against a ticking clock.
The dancers move as if in slow motion, not quite there. It's a performance about a performance. Playing a version of their own lives, they're detached from individuality.
To 2 July (0844 412 4300)
Review: A panoramic account of the hacking scandalbooks
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Mystery of the Siberian holes at the end of the world 'solved': Scientists offer explanation
- 2 Pope Francis issues top 10 tips for happiness
- 3 Disney heiress Abigail disowns her share of family profits in West Bank company
- 4 Israel's propaganda machine is finally starting to misfire
- 5 Sean Hannity reacts to Russell Brand's Israel-Gaza criticism: 'You're a dumb actor known for your failed marriage to Katy Perry'
New Netflix releases: Films and TV shows coming in August 2014
The Walking Dead season 5 will see deaths of 'favourite characters', suggests Andrew Lincoln
Best movies on Netflix UK and US: 32 films that will end your endless scrolling
Coolio has sold his soul to Pornhub
Secret Cinema Back to the Future, review: Interactive cinema experience finally arrives
Land for gas: Merkel and Putin discussed secret deal could end Ukraine crisis
Woman and two children killed by mob in riots over 'blasphemous' Facebook post in Pakistan
Richard Dawkins tweets: 'Date rape is bad, stranger rape is worse'
Putin is 'thuggish, dishonest and reckless', says British ambassador to US
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – Britain as others see us
A new Russian revolution: The cracks are starting to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
- < Previous
- Next >