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Production

Radio and Juliet

Company

Slovene National Theatre Maribor

Reviewer

Stephanie Burridge

Date

03/06/2008

Time

8.00pm

Place

Esplanade Theatre

Rating

****

Head Dance

Contemporary dance has been pushing boundaries and challenging audiences for almost a century now, and it has spread from the United States to Canada, Europe and the Asia Pacific. Imagination, innovation and flair abound even in works from countries such as Slovenia where one may expect more traditional approaches to have endured. This year's Singapore Arts Festival features the Slovene National Theatre Maribor in two works by Romanian-born choreographer Edward Clug, and his Radio and Juliet pays homage not only to the poetics of Shakespeare but the British rock band Radiohead as well - and, of course, the dancers.

These dancers look like they have been drilled in classical ballet since they could walk. Their skill is extraordinary: the dancers bring the essence of movement to the stage with great beauty and understanding. Through their accurate interpretation of the complex movement that Clug requires in his work, they articulate the choreography with a poignancy that is unmistakably European. The dance has elements of darkness that hide behind the arching of the torso which is often combined with needle-like stabbing movements of the feet and legs. A signature move is the crooking of a wrist while the elbows work overtime, often initiating dance phrases and determining the direction the body moves.

Radio and Juliet juxtaposes a bittersweet quality with the virtuosic athleticism of six male dancers. Clad in dark suits, they constitute an urban clan and muscle their way through scenes that refer to, rather than re-enact, familiar parts of the plot such as the marriage, the clan fight, Romeo with his friends and the balcony duet. This famous pas de deux is contrived with mathematical precision as the dancers weave in and out of each other, beginning with small head movements that develop to extended lifts and complex partnering. The show finishes with these same small head movements in a spotlight, executed by Juliet over Romeo's lifeless body.

What makes this work brilliant is Clug's decision to hone in on the essence of Shakespeare's tale and map the universal elements of seduction, love, violence and friendship. Starting with an evocative film projection that zooms in on body parts, eyes and knees of the sleeping Romeo, Juliet wakes up and realises he is gone. Then the dance unfolds in reverse order as we look back on the life of a young man. The music of Radiohead is an intrinsic part of this ultimately futile journey of self-discovery. "You make pretty speeches / you feed me to the lions / I'm living in cuckoo land"- such lyrics reinforce the tale's underbelly about the struggles within relationships. Lighting designer Andrej Hajdinjak reinforces this atmosphere with clever use of blackouts and spotlights; the minimalist design and lighting give the work its edge.

Radio and Juliet was an extraordinary evening of dance although it came with a sense of detachment. The extremities of the body were manipulated with pace and precision but the centre of the body - and the heart - was rarely engaged. Raw emotion never came to the fore and I was left contemplating the spaces in between.


"What makes this work brilliant is Clug's decision to hone in on the essence of Shakespeare's tale and map the universal elements of seduction, love, violence and friendship."

Credits

Choreographer and director: Edward Clug

Dancers: Bojana Nenadovic Otrin, Christian Guerematchi G., Demetrius King, Matjaž Marin, Tiberiu Marta, Gaj Žmavc and Edward Clug.

Music: Radiohead

Lighting designer: Andrej Hajdinjak

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.