Tag... Me Vs The City, New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich

3.00

Dancing graffiti tells an urban fable

There's an eager audience for hip-hop dance. Street dance shows fill theatres, bringing in an enthusiastic young public, but choreographers are still struggling with a stunt-laden style. TAG... Me vs The City is the latest attempt to build flashes of virtuosity into coherent theatre. Director Jonzi D does make hip-hop moves tell a larger story, but both dance and narrative are muted.

Jonzi D's background mixes rapping, b-boying and the London Contemporary Dance School. He is now an associate artist at Sadler's Wells, where he masterminds the theatre's annual Breakin' Convention. Here he's working as a choreographer and a director, pulling a show together with a group of collaborators.

The dancer Banxy plays an obsessed graffiti artist who finds that his art, and his life, are spiralling out of control. Jonzi D's brightest idea is the way this production turns the dancers into animated graffiti, uniting the two visual strands of hip-hop culture. Banxy rattles a spray can, hissing between his teeth as he mimes spraying, while the dancers adjust their bodies to make the lines he draws. The conceit is worked out with affectionate detail. When Banxy blows on the dancers, setting a painted effect, they adjust fingers or facial expression to pull the pose into focus.

So far, so good, but much of the dancing here is limited. The cast of six spend a lot of time climbing into letter poses: arms out to make a T, leaning together for an A. The hiss and spray becomes a way of starting a solo, a dance growing out of the opening pose. Given that freedom, the dancers then stick to quiet wriggles and pedantic footwork.

TAG moves away from the flashy explosions of hip-hop, but can't find enough to replace them. The dancers are neat but not extraordinary. Tommy Franzén provides the evening's virtuoso moments. Banxy is a shambling figure, though his hisses and paint-can splutters are startlingly lifelike.

The narrative is an off-the-peg tale of a tortured artist. Banxy is not so much set against the city as overcome by his work and his own frailties. He gets drunk, gets an Asbo, grabs his crotch or pees against a wall, without persuading us that he's trying to create something important.

As his life gets out of hand, so does his work. The letters, the dancers, start prodding and sniping at each other, fading back into the scenery or angrily returning from it. The striking set, credited to The Collaborators, is filled with fleshy plastic structures, padded shapes with exaggerated curves and spikes. They suggest both stylised human figures and the letters of graffiti artists. Dancers curl up in and around them, leaning against the pointing arms and squiggles.

The city is evoked by Benjamin Wachenje's video animation. A cartoon train slices through a city of parks and skyscrapers, ducking out of sight before reappearing with a rattle of tracks. The carriages blur as they pass, staying just clear enough for you to make out the new graffiti scrawls and pictures on the sides.

The soundtrack, by DJ Pogo and Sparkii Ski, mixes samples and hums. It provides atmosphere, keeping the plot moving, but rarely drives the dancing: the rhythms are resistible. Shirley Williams dresses the dancers in black, with blocks of spray-paint colours on their tunics - part of the urban landscape, but able to stand out from it.

TAG is a tightly knit production. The dancing is part of the story, not stuck on afterwards; the collaborators work well together. Yet the energy fades. At the New Wolsey Theatre, Jonzi D gave the show the flavour of a music gig when he announced a cast change at the start. Cheers went up from a young audience asked to make some noise, but though TAG held their attention, that feeling doesn't last the evening.

Touring to 18 March (see www.jonzi-d.co.uk)

Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
musicReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Arts and Entertainment
‘Dawn of Planet of the Apes’ also looks set for success in the Chinese market

film
News
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight

tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
A waxwork of Jane Austen has been unveiled at The Jane Austen Centre in Bath

books
Arts and Entertainment
Britney Spears has been caught singing without Auto-Tune

music
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

    How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

    A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
    The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

    The evolution of Andy Serkis

    First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

    Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
    Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

    Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

    Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
    Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

    Blackest is the new black

    Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
    Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

    Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

    From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
    Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
    Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

    Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

    The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
    Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

    Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

    The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

    Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

    Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

    Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

    The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
    The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

    The Open 2014

    Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?