The Nottingham Playhouse recently proudly hosted a revival of 2001 production The Show Must Go On. This title might remind you of that similarly proud and popular Queen song from 1990, which chronicled the dying efforts of Freddie Mercury to continue performing as he sadly reached the end of his life. Well, last Friday’s performance brought a similar energy to the stage. It challenged audience expectations, and left you gasping for air thanks to the ingenious spontaneity, humour and surprise of what unfolded.
After what seemed like a lifetime sat waiting in our seats watching an empty stage, we were suddenly greeted by the arrival of all twenty or so performers spontaneously emerging silently from both wings. Once onstage they formed an asymmetrically pedestrian arrangement, and their arrival came as a relief to say the least. My mind had been beginning to wander in contemplation as to whether they had forgotten to turn up, or if something had waylaid them backstage. But little did I know that the show had already began well before all of this. The DJ himself, who had been playing various contemporary tracks from his desk at the front of the auditorium since our arrival, was soon to play more of an active role in the show than anyone had anticipated…
In fact, everything was so ambiguous and spontaneous, the experience soon became ultimately unique and we were glued to our seats in awe. So it seemed acclaimed French choreographer and dancer Jérôme Bel had already nailed his intense “search for authenticity” with his piece, something which only became increasingly evident. Particularly when faced with sudden onstage crescendos that arise from a series of seemingly controlled and relaxed initial movements. These moments rise to a roar of utmost chaos, and at these points I’d probably even advise viewer discretion. However, I think this played an important role in the show. It certainly proved that no physical disability can get in the way of one’s potential to captivate and shock.
But this Candoco Dance Company show also explores the relationship between life and art through non-dance, which is something of a choreographic movement going on within contemporary dance right now. This school of thought encourages performers to contribute their own ideas and work in collaboration with the practitioner. And that seems to have resulted in an electric show that can jump from one extreme to the other throughout.
At one point, it even seemed as though the show had abruptly ended. The lights dropped and all the performers left the stage, which felt delightfully odd because it honestly didn’t feel like we’d been sat there long at all. But wait, they were back! and we were soon exposed to a sudden beam of white light, staring at them face to face as they stood analysing us. Or more appropriately, they were “watching” us. It seemed it was our turn to experience the vulnerability that many with disabilities are made to feel each day, and even after a few minutes I was beginning to feel uncomfortable.
Though The Show Must Go On was also a real chance for the performers to showcase their incredible abilities. For ninety minutes these lot certainly prove they’ve still “got the power”. Plus their potency made The Show Must Go On a scintillatingly good watch, and definitely makes this worth seeing if Dance 4 decide to revive it again in future.