Company Chameleon has it all: in not much more than an hour, the cast do virtually all the styles of dance to the widest variety of music. The six men explore the idea of what it is to be a man and, indeed, have come up with a very masculine show that is accessible and often funny to boot.
Opening with Bach and a classical pas de deux, the group soon shapes into the recognisable situation of an X Factor-style talent hunt, which sees two newcomers who want to join the troupe displaying their skills to a difficult-to-please panel. The dance gang’s leader (real-life Artistic Director Anthony Missen) sings, swirls and screeches while Eryck Brahmania follows, mostly to an unimpressed and intimidating audience. Once he does something of his own, however, he is accepted; so is Thomasin Gulgec, who is admitted by simply recounting a saccharine tale of how nature is a mirror of life. Crazy as it all sounds, it works wonderfully well to entertain while presenting a large number of different styles.
Now that the gang is complete, a boot camp follows and the formation of a tight clique gives rise to some testosterone-fuelled behaviour, including forming a front to the audience while almost literally pissing on them. Singing in old-fashioned microphones, Company Chameleon makes generous use of all their talents.
Things turn a shade darker in the second half when the troupe, now acting as one organism, slides and ducks across the space, now shrouded in shadows. In slow motion, they add a dimension of invigorating visual accomplishment in a segment portraying affiliation leading to deindividuation. It is at this point in this supremely well-coordinated show that it dawns on the audience there is a point to it all: the search for and physical manifestation of male behaviours in a group.
Indeed, next up we witness a member ostracised (incidentally it is Gulceg, who previously joined the gang so easily): he is hounded by the others and has to fight a battle he cannot win. Lee Clayden especially is impressive as the aggressor, and like animals they draw together to oust him. Beauty of the Beast‘s title is finally done justice, and in the somewhat lengthy final section another bestial theme is used, as a tall and imposing Clayden rides two dogs from hell to the music of Rage Against The Machine. A very dark closing statement, perhaps a tad too much so, is his stretched out struggle with death.
Anthony Missen has created an accessible performance with a touch of humour in the right places. By the end, we have seen all the styles (hip-hop, funk and many more – bar ballroom, perhaps) pass revue in a routine with a story. A very entertaining show.
Beauty of the Beast played at The Place for one night only on 18 November. For more information, visit The Place website.