201 Dance Company in Smother

Patrick Centre at the Birmingham Hippodrome
June 1, 2017

Phil Preece

Andrea Walker’s Smother is an initially interesting-sounding evening. Unfortunately, it doesn’t live up to the promise of its own publicity.

On paper it sounds promising, billed amongst things as “the new generation of street dance,” being of “unparalleled beauty,” and “thrillingly new.” On viewing, those high expectations quite simply don’t stand up on stage.

Promoted as contemporary hip-hop and “a story of two men’s broken encounter” what we actually see are seven dancers who act out various permutations of straight, gay and bisexual relationships, paradoxically demonstrating that gay has moved on, everyone’s heard of it now, it’s mainstream, and that contemporary culture quite rightly sees it as part of a continuum. In short, the horse, so cautiously delineated here on paper, has already bolted. Plus, it isn’t that gay; there’s hetero here too, and quite rightly given equal weight.

The rather derivative choreography can’t realistically be described as “raw” or “contemporary” either; or come to that hip-hop as most people think of it. In fact, the movement is in the main simplified and over-familiar with little of the saving grace of innovation and certainly no risk-taking departures. The charmingly eclectic soundtrack of songs never stops expressing light contemporary angst to the effect that it finally become disconcertingly easy-listening. If it’s supposed to be ironic, it’s misses its mark.

Zeitgeist-wise, most noticeably absent was an audience the age of the cast. On paper, this is a young story, but the young just weren’t there to watch. Why? Did it need more accessible pricing, better advertising or, as I suspect, do the target audience already know this stuff and are just too busy doing the next new thing?

So, new(ish) show, old audience. Even at 45 minutes it seemed overlong. Something, somewhere is very wrong here. Sadly, and despite all the performers’ trojan efforts, Smother (and why this title?) already looks passé and is just, well, dull.

Very disappointing, and a curiously worrying evening in quite the wrong way.