Women appallingly treated by men – check.
This story is told in Ovid’s Metamorphosis; so let’s riff a little on the concept of change – check.
Because the effect of Medusa’s gaze can be fatal, let’s add an explicit, spoken reference to the existentialist philosopher, Jean Paul Sartre’s key text, Being and Nothingness, which posits that our consciousness of ourselves is built by our awareness of how others see us – check.
‘Medusa’ is also the word for ‘jellyfish’ in some European languages, ergo, the sea – check.
Now, we all know today’s seas are being overcome by plastic pollution, so Medusa/jellyfish/polluted seas – check.
And because contemporary dance has taken to straddling the borders with physical theatre, let’s insert bits of text – check.
Now, let’s put all that into the pot, shake it around and what do we get?
A bit of a dogs’ breakfast, that’s what.
Jasmin Vardimon's Medusa starts well enough, with the stage covered in rumpled, wavy plastic sheeting representing the sea. In comes from a female figure whose billowing plastic skirt echoes the body of a jellyfish. Her graceful arms move like ethereal tentacles, the illusion of swimming almost perfect.
Soon, though, the waves build up as if lashed by a storm. Grieg’s melody is overtaken by electronic interference; the jellyfish is joined by six dancers dressed in black, and at that point any thread is lost.
Later, a man with a woman scurrying at his feet launches into a long speech, the gist of which is that he is a man, he has a shadow, and his shadow is a woman, and she will always be beneath him… all this accompanied by knowing looks at the stalls and occasional grabbing of his own genitals.
In another sequence, a woman enacts being repeatedly shot to the sound of a cover version of Cher’s ‘bang bang he shot me down’.
All the while, two groups of industrial chimneys continuously belch smoke over the stage, and almost imperceptibly slide in from the periphery as if to choke the performing space.
The soundtrack is a collage of bits of music and noise, some of which are quite unendurable.
The truth is, the late great choreographer Pina Bausch has a lot to answer for. Her unique brand of German expressionism created a whole new set of aesthetics for dance-theatre, one which remains unequalled, and has garnered a host of admirers, followers, and unwise imitators.
I fear Medusa fits into the latter category. While the apparent chaos within so many of Pina Bausch's works has a fierce internal cohesion, an extraordinary emotional impact, and touches of humour, Medusa has no coherence, no emotional impact, and no sense of humour. All we are left with, then, is the chaos.
|What||Jasmin Vardimon, Medusa Review|
|Where||Sadler's Wells, Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R 4TN | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Angel (underground)|
22 Oct 18 – 24 Oct 18, 19:30 Dur.: 1 hour 10 mins no interval
|Website||Click here to book via Sadler's Wells website|