Such Stuff As We Are Made Of, Komedia, Brighton, ;***

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The Independent Culture

Prudes keep away. The Lia Rodrigues Companhia de Dancas's Such Stuff as We Are Made of displays the naked human body from every possible angle, no holds barred, no contortionist position untried. At one point, as a solo man looped his body into a kneeling U-bend so that he seemed headless, I thought it an impressive optical illusion, but only mildly so. At another, as two men pitched forward against each other in right-angled mirror replication, so that you saw just two pairs of legs and one long joined-up back, I thought, what a funny way to make a living, to have your face buried in someone else's groin. Sure, it requires intense muscular control, but what for?

There were three such slow-motion cameos – a male solo, a female trio, a male duo – each one requiring the floor-seated audience to move to another part of the room. After 15 minutes I was feeling mutinous, and longed to go home. Then the whole company filed in, eight men and women who just stood, so that you could see their humanity, their individual differences and similarity. Suddenly, it seemed that Lia Rodrigues was showing us flesh that could start as biological clay, moulded into monstrous, freakish creatures, but ultimately ending up as the beautiful, harmonious humans we know.

When they fell to the floor and began convulsing, the harmony switched to horror. They travelled along the floor in obscene convulsions, like jerky film footage, collecting in a mound of cadavers. Creation, life, death: but Rodrigues's ultimate agenda is political. After a pause, which some of us mistook for the end, the performers returned, dressed, to dance within a rectangular space, solos alternating with tight unison wedges. The movement is militaristic, arms punching the air, fingers flashing in the V-signs of peace, legs in rigid regimental steps. The earlier silence is filled with slamming rhythmic percussion and slogans, part-earnest, part-mocking: Kosovo! Auschwitz! Hamas! Benetton! Keep the Pound!

The sequence continues, solos, ensembles culminating in a manifesto read out about basic human rights. Yes, it may have a rather naive, right-on dimension, but it is powerful theatre. By the time the cast gathers into a line to make their slow sideways exit, we are overwhelmed, simultaneously battered and exhilarated. This vital Brazilian company wowed last year's Edinburgh Fringe and arrives today in London.

Robin Howard Dance Theatre, London WC1 (020-7387 0031) tonight and tomorrow