Sadler’s Wells, London
July 4, 2018
We will all eventually reach our grand finale and living such a rational age, we might think we have it all sorted. Not so, as revelationist beliefs abound, including the literal interpretations of the premillennialists, the miracle of the ‘rapture’ and the eschatology of Ezekiel speaking to the dry bones. However, Hofesh Shechter avoids all these notions seeming to prefer the ‘be merry, for tomorrow we die’ attitude. And he definitely knows how to push the right buttons for audience appeal: the hypnotic thumping beat, rave dance moves, super-smart lighting and a brilliant troupe of ten dancers.
Lighting designer Tom Visser creates amazing worlds and apocalyptical images, illuminating the engulfing haze with extraordinary innovations in light. The screens are constantly shifting setting unexpected demarcations, finding nooks and crannies for the six on-stage musicians to play their persistent intense drone interspersed with raw sounds and melodic interludes. Shechter has a sharp eye for structure, shaping the piece effectively as he balances tribal rock with sudden silence and black-outs with blinding lights.
In this dystopian scenario, Shechter drops hints: the huddled bodies, the dead and dying, the bodies standing frozen facing a blank wall. They could be refugees or camp inmates, the block-like screens look suspiciously like the Berlin Holocaust monument. However, in the second act, in different lighting, they look more like segments of the wall that carves up Palestine. The universality of conflict crosses borders while refugees congregate at barriers. Shechter side-steps any involvement and makes light of the matter with an engaging skip and hop of a folk dance or a sentimental tune from a popular song before the troupe break into another hefty chunk of mind-numbing rave.
Schechter work was once new and exciting but now it too often follows the same predictable pattern. It’s entertaining but there is precious little ballast to sustain the designer window dressing.