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Production

Life is Not a Picnic

Company

cieLaroque/Helene Weinzierl

Reviewer

Stephanie Burridge

Date

23/01/2008

Time

8.00pm

Place

Esplanade Theatre Studio

Rating

***

Shopping and Rucking

Dancers performing stylised gestures inspired by everyday activities can become boring if not given a good injection of madness and humour. In front of a projected image of people ascending and descending an escalator in a shopping mall, Life is Not a Picnic played upon the inanity of the consumerist society of today. The roots of the movement lay in the development of routine tasks that were recognizable - for instance drinking, walking the dog and waiting in a queue. The choreography relied on the skill of the dancers to maintain tight, precise movement and the ensemble of four sustained their energy well. Although cieLaroque/Helene Weinzierl were successful in showing some of the eccentricities that abound in a shopping mall and giving them a contemporary twist, the theme could do with more variation and imagination.

At first it was interesting to see these four dancers trapped in the mall and to join in their futile search for goods and the meaning of life - but it didn't move forward and the choreography was always punctuated and segments ended abruptly. The dancers performed the individual, idiosyncratic style of dance well and were able to use humour and interact with the audience to some degree - but the amount of multi-tasking required in the work became a bit too much on occasions and movement became unclear as the dance progressed. They never seemed able to fully commit to a lengthy phrase of dance or mime, making it difficult for the audience to follow. For example, the character "walking the dog" appeared several times for brief moments - this was initially funny but it never developed so we did not get any closer to the persona of the dog walker or the point of this repetition in the dance. The four dancers seemed to fling themselves about as if in a centrifuge that reunited them once it slowed down - metaphorically like their individual forays into the mall that eventually brought them back to each other for fear of getting lost or being alone. This search for love extended to the audience in one part and the dancers came up close to speak with us about love and being liked - however it was too brief to enable commitment on either side. The audience wanted to join in more or not be invited in the first place.

Life is Not a Picnic succeeded in reflecting the frenetic pace of life. The programme notes refer to shopping malls as the "new temples of today" where we not only spend large amounts of our time and money, but also search for love and meaning, finding "things" to express ourselves and our personalities. Towards the end of the dance the performers appeared with shopping bags that they put over their heads then shuffled about on all fours like the dog one of them was walking before. The projection of the escalator was reversed so some people went up backwards and the dance finished soon after - though life goes on in the mall.

The M1 Fringe has succeeded in bringing high quality contemporary dance into focus in this festival. cieLaroque/Helene Weinzierl is a group of well trained, mature dancers that understand the choreographer's intention and have the variety of skills needed to pull it off. Life is Not a Picnic described and played out life in the mall but fell short of interpreting its poetic, reflective title.


"Life is Not a Picnic described and played out life in the mall but fell short of interpreting its poetic, reflective title"

Credits

Choreographer:
Helene Weinzierl

More Reviews by Stephanie Burridge

Ratings out of 5, based on Practitioner's Vision / Reviewer's Response: ***** = Transcendent / Rapturous;
**** = Crystal / Appreciative; *** = Transmitted / Thoughtful; ** = Vague / Unsatisfied; * = Uncommunicated / Mystified.