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Miriam Levy I Can't Work Under These Conditions

House of Mirth Portrait of a Wrestler

Casper Dillen Orfeo

Miriam Levy's I Can't Work Under These Conditions is a comical piece about three divas and how they each look to dominate, outdo and impose their greatness on all around them. At the closing bows, done in full-on character, it hit its mark and you yearned for a bit more of that funny clarity in the work itself - it could be rather opaque. But Levy's chosen contemporary dancers - imposing Sula Castle, forceful Daze Hingorani-Short and gobby Andrea Callaghan - dominate the stage and strongly elevate the movement ideas, if their black singlet and shorts costumes, even when augmented by the odd accessory, felt rather un-diva.

Professional wrestlers Thomas Dawkins (dance trained) and Mike Bird put on one of the most physically brutal performances I've seen on stage and House of Mirth's Portrait of a Wrestler will stay long in my memory for them alone. Their bout might be scripted (as pro fights normally are) but the cleverness and deftness of movement is a glory to see in isolation. They performed on a proper boxing floor surrounded by a humming chorus of 21 acting as the audience, shouting and growling support at times. I'm not sure if Portrait really "explores the crisis of masculinity at the heart of Professional Wrestling." But, as honest physical movement that dance audiences rarely see, it really hit home.

Closing out the night was Casper Dillen's Orfeo, about trying to accomplish great things and often not achieving them, if it mixes this easily-understood idea with "building on a tradition of depicting the myth of Orpheus as an allegory for ecological and political disaster". Gulp. The reality was a memorably surreal show, featuring a cast of eight, including Dillen's own terrific hopping mermaid, performing weird games and dares. It delighted you with the unexpected, often involving keeping ping pong balls in the air and, come the end, the stage was littered with them and the results of a mad pillow fight. A bonkers piece, if the unintelligible and tuneless singing at the end was just too low key. But I'll certainly lookout for more of Casper Dillen's work.

Bruce Marriott

Miriam Levy’s new creation I Can’t Work Under These Conditions aims to look at the intersection of confidence and gender expression. Interlacing slow motion and melodramatic poses between the blocks of repetitious movement, three dancers dressed in black enter and exit the stage with different costume arrangements that on occasions appear to be random. Donning headpieces, ball gloves, rolling on the knees to stage left and arm-wrestling are ways through which Levy tries to navigate the idea of ‘divas’. The most delightful part of the piece was the bow in a form of ballet full curtsy and a 'temp leve' exit. One cannot help but let out an appreciative chuckle.

House of Mirth presented the audience with something unexpected. A highly charged piece, Portrait of a Wrestler centres on two physical performers placed on a raised and suspended stage delivering a fury of punches and daring lifts. Every single boldly executed drop is accentuated by the frightful metallic crashing noise when a body splatters on the raised stage. The topics raised by choreographer Claire Heafford are fascinating, yet amicability comes too suddenly between the performers when they decide to sit next to each other on the edge of the raised stage after their long and ferocious fight.

Ofreo is a truly curious piece. Shifting compositions whimsically from one to the next, Casper Dillen enchants us with vibrant colours and ridiculous costumes. The most anticipated moment is when a ping pong ball, after being picked up from the floor and passed on by each performer in a line, finally gets caught and deposited in its designated bucket. The piece, to me as a viewer, comes to a satisfying finish when the ball hits the bucket, without the additional extra long and drawn out experimental singing that concludes.

Hazel Lam