Don't be misled; it's hard to see much celebration in Yippeee!!!, Lea Anderson's new show for her companies, the Cholmondeleys and the Featherstonehaughs. Anderson draws on Busby Berkeley, who created hallucinatory dance numbers in 1930s Hollywood, but Yippeee!! is gloomy, repetitive and much too long.
Of course, repetition is part of the point. Berkeley's dances featured dozens of chorus girls in kaleidoscope patterns, the same step endlessly repeated. Anderson turns the all-female Cholmondeleys and all-male Featherstonehaughs into chorines, dressed by Simon Vincenzi in grey body-stockings. They take up poses, or rummage in clothing racks for more elaborate and bizarre clothes: fur wraps, puffy shorts, masks, tails.
The costume changes mean a lot of milling around. There's more of it in the dance sequences, which look half-finished. The music, played on stage by Steve Blake's band Yum Yum, has big guitar chords and repetitive riffs. It builds energy but not momentum.
Anderson's effects are often blankly creepy. All the dancers have dark stains around their mouths: zombie make-up, suggesting decomposition. The masks include long brown tubes that hang from the dancers' mouths, gas masks, red rose noses. These Hallowe'en touches don't go anywhere. The imagery is both sinister and dull. The dancers do pose well, their capes hanging from elegantly tilted shoulders.
When Anderson steps back to comment on the movie world, she comes up with very obvious points. The dancers will pose, then clutch their groins, squatting about the stage. They wear red cushions on their bottoms, suggesting the sexual displays of baboons - and a dancer reappears dressed as a baboon. A martinet dance director bullies the chorus line. It all takes time, but tells us nothing we didn't already know. All those chorus lines were about sex? You don't say.
Yippeee!! might work as a 20-minute piece, but this show lasts as long as a film, without a shred of plot development. Anderson misses the big, weird scale of those old films, their surreal exuberance.
Touring to 25 November ( www.thecholmondeleys.org)Reuse content