Lights come up to reveal a public park with a mermaid statue and one suited dancer on stage. There is stillness: the trickling water cascading from the water feature dapples the silence with sound as we anticipate what will happen next. Music begins to fill the air, and the characters emerge from the set and scenery: a space-taking ‘larger’ lady laden with big shopping bags, a disgruntled tramp in a sleeping bag, and a cocksure street-dancer, to name the first few.
The idiosyncrasies of each personality are as clear as the beat that marks their movements around the park. Each has an objective and a way of being. It is refreshing to watch the dancers speak, throwing text at one another and at us; organised chaos unfolds in front of our eyes as the park is placed under threat by an ambitious businessman.
The dancers are voltaic in their energy: the choreography escapes from their bodies with such passion I find it difficult to split my attention between them all. Solos and duets show us how the characters are viewed in society: their status and circumstances are made very clear, and they dance to protest and save their park whilst forming relationships with each other.
Jasmin Vardimon’s direction and choreography release the dancers to escape even the slightest inhibition. Vocal interruptions and the sounds of breath are captivating and make the characters even more alive and fascinating. A seduction is given intensity as Silke Muys sings and punctuates her capture with her voice.
Two favourite moments are the men together as they bounce and thrust their buoyant masculinity about the stage in a perfect pack, stealing the attention from one another until the last remains. The other is at the very end of the piece when the company repeat the same fling-of-the-arms-behind-them-and-back-down-again for what seems like five minutes! An amazing show of stamina to say the least.
Each member of the company has such a unique and impressive set of skills and characteristics. I have never seen a cast allowed free reign to tear up the space in this way. A special mention goes to Maria Doulgeri, a firework of a dancer with such power and punch, an extraordinary physical presence in many respects.
The piece is open to us to discover and interpret the characters. The humour and honesty of the work invites us in without a hint of pretence or exclusivity. It is a construction of life. The detailed work of the design team made up of Abigail Hammond (costume), Chanine Yavroyan (lighting) and Dan Shorten (digital) have worked in such detail to surprise our senses throughout.
Since the start of the company in 1997 this special company has created several pieces, this one being my first experience of Jasmin Vardimon’s expertise and soul. I cannot wait to see the next – I might even see Park a second time!
Park played at Sadler’s Wells. For more information please see the Jasmin Vardimon website. Photo by Ben Harries.