DANCE: TALKING THE HIND LEG OFF A DANCER

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Dancers have a reputation for not having a great deal to say for themselves. Nigel Charnock (right) is impossible to shut up. Lloyd Newson, artistic director of DV8 Physical Theatre, made use of Charnock's facility for manic logorrhea in his Strange Fish in 1992 and, since then, Charnock has produced a string of one-man shows that use his talents to the full. Resurrection, Original Sin and Hell Bent formed a trilogy of work that leavened the heavy theme of human relationships with his deranged monologues and infectious wit. The trilogy has now become a quartet and Human Being, opens on Monday.

"I'm always interested in the same themes: love, sex, death. This time, there's a little bit about belief and faith and the fear of death - which is new territory for me." In Human Being he looks not only at death, but at the other things that pass away: "I was badly injured last year and I was told that I'd never dance again, and that got me thinking about a part of my life that was going to end." (In fact, his dancing career made an unexpected recovery after a successful operation on his ankle.) "As I get older, I know that I won't be able to do this or that any more. It's a mid-life crisis, I suppose. I don't want it to sound like I'm getting on stage and doing some kind of psycho-therapy, it's just that I need some kind of personal connection between me and the work I do."

Charnock has long been laying the groundwork for his life after dance. He has made work for Volcano Theatre Company and last year created Heroine, a piece for five dancers inspired by the life of Billie Holiday. "I enjoy working with theatre companies and I'm writing a lot more. If my body does give in, I can always sit down and just talk."

You would have thought that an extra skill would be to a dancer's advantage, but it can play havoc with your funding. "The funding is really, really difficult - the dance department of the Arts Council say it's not really dance, the theatre department say it's not really theatre. I suffer terribly from that - not just from getting money, but from the audience as well. Someone will ask a friend about the show, `What does he do?'. `Well, it's not really dance, it's sort of theatre and he sings a bit.' Nowadays, I say it's like a musical, only I do it on my own."

Despite the serious subject matter, Charnock insists that Human Being is not all doom and gloom. "I enjoy it. I made it because I wanted to enjoy myself on stage for a change, rather than this awful suffering business. It's one of the funniest shows I've done. I find it very difficult to take anything seriously. If I do, I think `Come on Nigel, who are you kidding? Remember, you're from Stockport'.''

`Human Being' is at The Arts Theatre, WC2 (0171-836 3334) 23 Feb-7 March

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