Running at a tigh-ish 50 minutes and with the special selling point of costumes by Andreas Kronthaler for Vivienne Westwood, the original Cowpuncher My Ass bore a tangential relation to its theme of cowboys, even if it eventually tailed off into something rather more ass than cowpuncher.
Leaving it at that would have been a wise option.
Instead Holly Blakey, a post-punk in-demand choreographer for all manner of music videos and fashion shows, decided radically to remake the show and extend it to what felt like an interminable 75 minutes. And she brought it to the bigger stage of the Royal Festival Hall for a one-off performance.
Andreas Kronthaler’s costumes have been remade, with two stand-out pink taffeta outfits: a torso-hugging, voluminous skirt dress for one the three female dancers, and a very ample two-piece suit for one of the four men.
The other costumes were less eye-catching: they ranged from a rumpled shirt and tie, Y-fronts and socks to a white belted tunic, and a seemingly demure but ass-revealing dress.
Blakey has also augmented Mica Levi’s brutalist, banging and crashing, very loud score, which batters you into some kind of submission akin to a trance, with a procession of violinists in long white dresses and tuxedos, who at one point filed slowly onto the stage and proceeded to scratch at their instruments for quite a while, before solemnly filing off again.
Performed on a naked stage, the first half-hour of the show took place with the house lights up, which had the disconcerting effect of making the dancers appear somewhat flat.
The choreography, such as it was, was darker this time around, having completely lost the moments of light humour that appealed in the original version. That tired old trope of women being dragged along the floor by brutish males is present and correct and recurs at intervals. Sigh.
Some of the one-on-one interactions verged on naked aggression; others turned simulated riding into sexual bumping and grinding. A sense of improvisation permeated individual solos.
There were moments of ensemble dancing, which, if rather sub-Hofesh Shechter, nonetheless had some appeal; and, of course, the dancers are superb, delivering outstanding performances in ungainly and unflattering material.
Edward Saunders’s lighting, when it was eventually allowed to do its thing, was suitably moody, its green or red tinges leaching the colour from the costumes to startling effect. De rigueur strobe lighting made an appearance.
The show was dedicated to the recently deceased godmother of punk, Vivienne Westwood. One wonders what she would have made of it.
|What||Holly Blakey, Cowpuncher My Ass, RFH review|
|Where||Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London, SE1 8XX | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Waterloo (underground)|
On 15 Feb 23, 19:30 Dur.: 75 mins no interval
|Price||£22.50-£40 (+booking fee)|
|Website||Click here to book|