Park, Peacock Theatre, London <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

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The Independent Culture

The choreographer Jasmin Vardimon is moving up in the dance world. Park is her first work for bigger stages, her first evening-length piece. Vardimon's style is physical theatre, with some speech and some danced episodes. Her dancers are charismatic, she has some inventive images, but Park is too long and too diffuse.

Merle Hansell's set is grimly urban. There's a little grass in this park, sprouting sadly from one of the concrete barriers. There's a high-wire fence, and a dribbling fountain with a statue of a mermaid. Vardimon's characters drift through this unwelcoming space: a bag lady, a busker, a shaven-headed thug.

Dancers also switch characters. The bag lady, wearing all her clothes at once, peels off the top few layers to emerge as a tourist guide, then as an office worker. Rebuked by his equally aggressive girlfriend, the thug ends up on hands and knees. Leon Bough's thug has some of the strongest dancing, jerking his body around with driving force. Having made this character, Vardimon doesn't quite know what to do with him. When he bullies other characters, the confrontations go on too long before tailing off.

Vardimon chooses a soundtrack of pop music, speech and linking sounds. The amplified sound means you can't always hear the dialogue, but I'm not sure how much that matters. The thug's patriotic speech, addressed to the audience, is deliberately confused - but that seems to be its only point. It's a small return for a long scene.

Fernanda Prata's mermaid is the other dominating character. Climbing down from her fountain, she starts to seduce all the other characters - men first, though she stops the complaints of the thug's girlfriend with a long kiss. Prata has a fluid upper body, and a nice air of wilfulness. Again, characterisation fades as we move from episode to episode. Threatened by the thug in one scene, the mermaid brings him to heel in the next. Yet Vardimon doesn't make anything of the contrast, of these characters' change in attitude.

Vardimon links dramatic scenes with group dances. As they go about their business, the characters start to echo each other's movements, sliding into group dances. Vardimon's hard-working cast are fluent and clear in these more abstract dances, but her steps are strictly linking material.

'Park' will be performed at South Hill Park, Bracknell, in February

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