To the percussive clicks of a keyboard and the electronic beeps and chirps that invade our lives, Protein reflects on the nature of human interaction in a digital age. Sounds promising? Title aside, I thought so too. Unfortunately, the piece has delusions of grandeur but misses its mark.
Let’s start with the title: LOL. Where I come from, “lol” means “laugh out loud”, not “lots of love”, and has become a reflexive punctuation mark in casual conversations, rather than a phrase that has a great deal of meaning. The fact that Protein felt the need to spell out that LOL can mean “lots of love”, “lots of luck”, “laughing out loud”, “lack of laughter”, “lack of love”, “lack of luck”, “life on line”, “love on line” and also, apparently, “losers on line” and “log off loser”, in its promotional material suggests the lack of coherent decision-making that characterises the piece. This dabbling the world of online interactions feels rather half-hearted, while trying to appear committed. What could have been an interesting exploration of how we present ourselves online, and how this affects relationships and potential relationships, was instead a rather stilted and over-worked set of vignettes, with very little connecting purpose.
Perhaps this lack of connectedness was intentional – a look at the fragmentary nature of today’s society – or perhaps the piece just lacked a clear idea of where it was going. Either way, it was often unsatisfying to watch, and eked out a slim idea to 70 mins. The piece was “conceived and directed” by Luca Silvestrini and “devised and performed” by the six dancers; I wonder if this lack of a single choreographer has led to a kind of ‘devise by committee’ approach, and that’s why the piece feels so bitty. The dancers themselves, Patsy Browne-Hope, Omar Gordon, Kip Johnson, Sally Marie, Fernanda Prata and Stuart Waters, are lithe and committed, but never seem comfortable with the demanded audience interaction. It was refreshing to see the six dancers (three men, three women) mix up their partnerships to portray same-sex couples as well as heterosexual ones, but this was not enough to redeem a piece that was shallow but aiming to be deep.
The piece was danced to the sounds of Skype, MSN, etc., to words spoken by the dancers, and to pre-recorded and distorted words and phrases (composed by Andy Pink). Much of the language was lifted straight from lonely hearts ads, or was ostensibly email text from one member of a dating website to another. Again, this could have been an interesting idea, especially if the choreography has concentrated on the emotions, the loneliness and the fear of rejection, rather than on the narrative. Sadly, the overly earnest script quickly descended into trite cliché, wallowing in pseudo-philosophical insights and becoming too shallow to be taken as seriously as it took itself. There were some witty moments in the script, which provided the nicest moments of dance, too, but they were too few and too far between.
The dancers seemed bogged down by the earnestness of the piece, and they struggled to dance naturally while reciting their lines. I fail to see the value in having the lines spoken live – a recording would have left the dancers much freer. The piece also fell into the trap of dancing to the words, with one movement for each syllable and almost miming the story, rather than the dance taking on a life of its own. The pervading feeling was a sense that the company just don’t really get the way online communication works; the characters created by the words and dance feel like stereotypes, where ‘real’ people would have been more interesting.
LOL – Lots of Love by Protein played at The Place. For more shows and information see their website here: www.theplace.org.uk