Newbold Road Car Park, Rugby
June 1, 2021
It was a perfect early evening: sunny and warm, with no more than a smidgeon of breeze. Motionhouse’s planned return to live performance the previous Sunday at the Ilminster Summer Experience (with Captive) fell victim to the weather but there were no such problems in Rugby. Conditions were just right for Wild, their outdoor dance-circus production that explores our relationship with the natural environment, and that takes place around and on a forest of tall poles.
That set simultaneously suggests a forest and the urban high-rise jungle. There’s sometimes a human-animal duality too as Artistic Director Kevin Finnan and the cast of six considers our disconnect with the natural environment, and whether and how the wild still shapes our behaviour.
Wild certainly allows you to space to consider those questions and draw parallels between human and animal, man-made and wild. There are moments when you find yourself engaging in a sort of reverse anthropomorphism or zoomorphism, especially when the performers sit in the canopy or hang upside-down from its ‘branches’. But equally, you can just sit back and enjoy the acrobatics.
The cast of six, armed with messenger bags that would later, and rather cleverly, double as pole top platforms, tentatively explore their surroundings. They hide and peer out from behind the poles. Wild is a bit of a slow burner but it’s not too long before the company’s distinctive physicality comes to the fore as they swing around the poles and in choreography that’s full of hand-to-hand partnering. There is a lot more setting up and it does lack the flow of some of the company’s other outdoor works, however.
The partner work is as fabulous as you would expect. One beautiful moment comes in a quieter section when Beth Pattison appears as if floating or hanging on a thermal as Daniel Masserella lifts and then holds her high overhead. There are plenty of other striking images too, none more so that towards the end when all six performers stand atop the tallest poles (and they do bend). Perversely, one of the best moments comes when a sort of human totem poles disintegrates, the dancers concertinaing to the floor with superb grace.
Motionhouse are touring their outdoor shows through the summer (Wild is next on at the Merchant City Festival in Glasgow on July 9, 2021 – free but booking required). Visit www.motionhouse.co.uk for dates and venues.
The company’s new stage production, Nobody, premieres at London’s Peacock Theatre on September 22, 2021.