Dry ice hugs the small of the back and the tip of the tongue. Darkness falls. The air is captured by total obscurity, this act of sensory deprivation bringing the audience together through a universal blindness. Shadows flicker, as if warped by firelight. Bodies are made strange by fog and an eager frequency, throbbing between snatches of silence. A tribal pulse sharpens isolated movements as a group of eight performers complete their hypnotic life cycle, moving with agility that seems beyond that of the mortal form.
This can only be the work of Hofesh Shechter, whose signature movement language and sense of synergy between performance, sound, and lighting creates a theatrical experience like no other. For the first time, the internationally acclaimed Israeli choreographer brings his latest production SHOW to the Lyric Hammersmith as part of a UK and World Tour. Created as a companion piece to Clowns – Shechter’s highly praised depiction of a group of anarchic jesters – SHOW compliments its cousin through a powerful use of black comedy, as well as its spellbinding juxtaposition of the collective and the individual.
Every sense is teased by the fluidity of technical craftsmanship, the space becoming chameleon-like as it is manipulated through colour. Shechter’s score is all consuming and melts into a haze of blue and green, the dancers surrounded by sorcery as they attack ritualistic sequences. Mortality spins on its axis while throats are slit – a shot to the temple narrated by the crashing of drums. Sometimes dead, sometimes alive, this group are fierce, calling wildly to magic in the heavens as their garments transform. How or when this occurs is never apparent, but just as the mind races to catch up, it begins to gallop with a desire to join them before everything fades to black.
The atmosphere is dense with ghosts. Crimes of passion create a sexual tension as the party grow and shrink. Vertebrae move like water in a brook and bones ripple with the act of breathing. All sense of time is lost. Without warning, the stage becomes full of things we cannot see, loneliness and companionship riding across huge explosions of movement and sudden moments of stillness. Stunning shapes merge, creating a kaleidoscopic effect, with slight actions speaking volumes and larger ones verging on supersonic. Here, you either kill or be killed.
SHOW commits murder. It brings the dead back to life and is supernatural in its theatrical alchemy. Richard Godin’s lighting design is extraordinary, and every performer is alien with talent. Shechter’s attention to detail is so fine that it is almost dangerous, and what’s more, curiosity will be tugging at every ligament until your feet carry you back to be a part of it all over again.
SHOW played at the Lyric Hammersmith until May 12
Photo: Gabriele Zucca