Not much heart in Meg Stuart’s Until Our Hearts Stop

Meg Stuart/Damaged Goods & Münchner Kammerspiele at Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London
November 15, 2017

Maggie Foyer

Meg Stuart has a reputation for post-modern works that shock and disturb and the full house at Sadler’s Wells for their single performance visit was suffused with a buzz of anticipation ready to laugh at every opportunity, sing along to Happy Birthday and even participate fully in the dreaded audience immersion – reminding us that the panto season is drawing near!

In this work, Stuart’s stated aim is to test the limits of intimacy in a theatrical space. The initial exercises in climbing over each other’s bodies had the relaxed intimacy of a litter of puppies and similar vulnerable charm, resulting in shaky balances on random body parts and foot-in-face moments.

The two-hour plus marathon had little structure but achieved a sort of logical progression as different acts took centre stage. These involved extending the dance spectacle to include confident stand-up patter, laced with barbed Brexit gags, a tame magic trick involving a mirrored box and crafting a Medusa-like mask of clay snakes, later gifted to the audience in a hail of clay balls.

Sadly, innovative choreography was not in evidence and neither did there seem much testing of the limits, a trademark of Damaged Goods. The license for stage nudity came in many decades ago, so nothing to prove with the brief male nudity or the long duet of animal abandon from the naked Claire Vivianne Sobottke and Maria F. Scaroni, although the giggling, slapping, splay-legged routine seemed choreographically more Soho than Sadler’s. The playtime attitude of the pair occupies a bubble far removed from the real world where there is an ongoing battle to stop demeaning and humiliating attitudes to women and where the headlines regularly exposes those who used their authority to bully and extract sexual favours. It all seemed uncomfortably disjointed.

On the plus side, there was some real cool jazz from the three onstage musicians but not enough to make this an evening well spent.