Zona Franca, created during Brazil’s transition from the authoritarian right-wing government of Jair Bolsonaro to the presidency of the left-wing Lula, comes wreathed in claims of social significance.
So, it supposedly ‘echoes the aspirations of Brazilian youth at the point of transition… It is a fervent piece that tells of the hopes of a disinherited generation yearning to reinvent itself.’
You could have fooled me. It starts enticingly enough. As the audience take their seats, a small group of performers are already on stage, clustered around a table in a corner, beating drums and fooling around. It’s as if we’re eavesdropping on somebody’s house party.
A bicycle stands at the back, and the open stage is overhung by a number of dark grey, opaque balloons.
The house lights go down, the drumming stops, and silence falls. Other performers bound in from the wings. One hits a balloon, and rather like a Mexican piñata, it showers the group with its contents of glittering confetti. This will be repeated throughout the show’s 70 minutes until all the balloons are burst and the stage is littered with glitter, which also glues itself to the dancers’ bodies.
Most of Zona Franca consists of chaotic ramblings and cavorting punctuated by wild bouts of shrieking. One man displays his genitals. Later another will masturbate lustily before falling on his back, laughing.
The dancing intervals to recorded songs that mercifully break the silence are few and far between. A lot of the choreography is based on twerking, with admirably loose hips and pelvis working hard, and much rhythmic contraction and release of audience-facing buttocks.
On a couple of occasions bouts of acrobatic street dancing Brazil-style, blending in capoeira and vogueing and with a strong feel of genuine improvisation, make you yearn for what might have been, had somebody opted to create a coherent dance vehicle for these thrilling dancers rather than pretentious, nihilistic chaos.
The ending (pictured top) is even more disconcerting than what went before. On a table slowly wheeled across the stage, a man and a woman, both scantily clad, contort themselves while they suck bits of their own and the partner’s bodies. He sucks her foot, she sucks his chest. He sucks her fingers while she sucks her own elbow. And so on in very slow motion, generating a perverse picture of obscene beauty.
|What||Alice Ripoll, Zona Franca review|
|Where||Queen Elizabeth Hall, South Bank Centre, Belvedere Road, SE1 8XX | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Waterloo (underground)|
02 Nov 23 – 04 Nov 23, 19:30 Dur.: 75 mins no interval
|Price||£20-£32 (+booking fee)|
|Website||Click here to book|