Review: Velvet Petal

Watching contemporary dance often reminds me of wandering round a sculpture gallery, in the sense that there’s always a part of me wondering what the person next to me is seeing. You take your cues wherever you can find them – in the costuming, the staging, any programme notes – but ultimately what’s going on in front of you is a hook, and you hang your own interpretations, your own trains of thought, off it. This probably makes me out to be a terrible amateur. But there’s something intensely personal, I find, about shows like Velvet Petal, in just the same way as there’s something personal about abstract art, ambient music, Rorschach tests. I wonder, I always wonder, what the person next to me was seeing.

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Review: What Shadows

It is 49 years since Enoch Powell’s famous “Rivers of Blood” speech, attacking black and other non-white immigrants from across the Commonwealth. The speech spurred a wave of violence and racist rhetoric across the UK. Chris Hannan’s new play, flits between 1968 and 1992, when an elderly Powell is approached by two academics writing about identity – national, ethnic, intellectual, and more. There’s a broad, nuanced discussion to be had here, and Hannan is determined to have it.

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Review: Games and After Liverpool, Fringe 2017

At the beginning of After Liverpool, two members of the audience are invited to toss a coin, to see which actor will play which character. Two pairs of romantic partners ask each other awkward questions – anything from “Do you want an apple?” (it’s the last one in the house), to “Do you see me as a sexual object?” At the beginning, I think, they must have told us the wrong thing. This must be Games they’re doing first – after all, it’s wall-to-wall mind games, and there’s no mention of Liverpool anywhere.

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Review: Rhinoceros, EIF 2017

They say that in times of conservative or regressive politics, the arts flourish because they have something to kick back against. For one thing, if that’s true, we’re in for a wild ride. And for another, given the current climate, it’s almost disconcerting how well early-1960s French absurdism just slots into the present day. In Zinnie Harris’s adaptation of Eugène Ionesco’s play, the appearance of a rhinoceros – or maybe two of them – sets a town off-balance. It soon becomes clear that it’s the town’s inhabitants that are changing into the animals.

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