Monday 13 August 2018

EIF 2018 - Hocus Pocus at the Studio, or, The Problem of Dispensing with Text

One of the EIF innovations of recent years has been to include a show or two for children. I've now seen a couple of these - Dragon back in 2015 and this show. Obviously I'm not the target audience but, that said, I found this ultimately a little thin.

The show, devised by Philippe Saire with Philippe Chosson and Mickael Henrotay-Delaunay collaborating on the choreography, is comparatively simple in style. Two dancers (Henrotay-Delaunay and Ismael Oiartzabel) perform a series of scenes lit only by two strip lights placed horizontally a little way off the ground to create a square viewing space.

Their physical dexterity as they manoeuvre around each other in this confined space is very impressive. They often create arresting, sometimes ambiguous images. There are also some clever technical effects - particularly in the underwater and flying sequences.

The problem arises from the decision to try and include an element of plot. A loose narrative is constructed around two boys who start by doing a lot of play fighting, then fly an aeroplane, ending up with one of them crashing into a body of water and getting swallowed by a shark. There's also an odd encounter with a spider with enormous claws which I couldn't quite fit with the segments on either side. This plot unfolds too slowly, and for me also came adrift through a lack of clarity about what is imagined and what is real so that I never really cared enough about what was happening to the performers to forgive the pacing and repetition.

I think this would have been a stronger show if shortened (it feels a long 45 minutes) and focused on showcasing the dexterity and technical cleverness of the performers and dispensing with the thin plot. Overall, this passes the the time pleasantly enough but is not a knock out.

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