One might suppose that a programme about falling out, falling apart and the end of the world would be a bit depressing for a cold Thursday night in February but not a bit of it! This varied programme was surprisingly joyful.
It opened with a tightly executed celebration of rhythm in a ten-strong cabaret of live music and tap dancing, choreographed by Avalon Rathgeb. The company was at its best when the whole ensemble tapped together and, separately, when we could hear the full effect of an excellent musical trio (an apt crossover came when the Cajon drummer joined the dancers). The quality of Fall Out dropped a notch when these impacts happened simultaneously, especially when the second number from an impressive singer (Hannah Jackson) was drowned by the noise of sixteen tap shoes.
Lindy Nsingo’s Fall Apart was another take on the trials of a relationship (there have been a few, this season). A clever fusion of gentleness and strength gave the work lasting momentum, even if interrupted by too many stops and starts with bodies scampering to other positions in the dark. Effective traction came from atmospheric music choices and engaging performances by two sensitive dancers - Amelia Cardwell and Nicholas Keegan - who also provided believable voiceovers.
Self-consciousness is no problem for James Morgan. He possesses a strong sense of theatre and in what, for the most part, was a long solo; Morgan handled speech, poetry, mime, movement and both subtle and anarchic humour without a flicker of inhibition, maintaining a strong connection with his audience throughout. Joined on stage by Charley Fone, they selected members of the audience to portray the solar system in a funny finale, ending – appropriately – with a whimper and not a bang. I was reminded of the late Nigel Charnock’s work (most recently evoked by Wendy Houstoun), which is high praise. When the world ends, I’m going round to James Morgan’s gaff. We might as well have some fun with that last dance!
The Land of Contemporary Dance has been invaded by tappers! Old Kent Road laid their wooden boards out in lily pad formation and smiled unapologetically. Relaxing into the haze, we allowed ourselves to be entertained. Avalon Rathgeb’s choreography is a dialogue between articulate chit chat and ambitious unison expertly executed and supported by pianist Annette Walker and vocalist Hannah Jacksons’ sultry live score. Musical theatre’s sinister head made some frantic appearances but in general Old Kent Road generously presented the fortifying satisfaction that only a rhythmic pattern can bring.
Lindy Nsingo’s Fall Apart transformed the atmosphere to one of quiet contemplation. Blinking light and dark, morphing images of a young couple appeared, exposing a structure that wobbled between episodic and fractured. Recorded voices told of broken glass and sleeping problems while Amelia Cardwell and Nicholas Keegans’ duet remained mysterious both in relation to each other and to the sound score’s content. Audience members I spoke to enjoyed the uncertainty, appreciating the intimate invitation to be party to something that remained undefined. It would be interesting to see what more mature performers would lend to this piece.
The foundations continued to shift beneath us as fresh-faced, boiler-suited James Morgan (2013 LCDS graduate) thanked everyone for attending A Dance for the End of the World and calmly guided us through a piece that teetered on the edge of tackiness, profundity and nonsense. He has a rare gift: the ability to convince an audience (despite all evidence to the contrary) that they’re in safe hands and can be taken anywhere. A list of endings ranging from running out of shampoo to dying in battle was illustrated by the recorded voice of designer Charley Fone (Wimbledon 2013 grad) whose plastic set amplified the hilarity of events. The evening concluded with theatre-goers jogging laps round the stage while hugging inflatable planets. This collaboration is exciting.