23 February 2017
Author: Jenny Gilbert & Cath Carver

A&O/Shades of Bray/Zjana Muraro & Gianna Burright

A&O The Growing-up Game

Shades of Bray Head over Heels

Zjana Muraro & Gianna Burright Untitled 3 + X 

As any TV comedy writer will tell you, there are ground rules to making people laugh, and setting the tone is crucial. Over-egg or generally force it and it won’t be funny at all. Two of the three pieces on Wednesday night relied on humour, neither of them wholly successfully.

A&O’s The Growing-Up Game contained some lovely visual gags but even the best of these struggled to take fire, not helped, perhaps, by the way the performers seemed to be holding up a sign saying “Laugh Now”. Fabrizio Amanajas’s three-hander set out to show how remnants of childhood play seep into adult working life, but for me not many of its observational points struck home. The context was an office where workers were rewarded for productivity, but the playground rivalry this generated was not particularly fertile ground. The best moments belonged to hapless Louis Nelhams and his backpack, as he repeatedly pulled another, smaller bag from its depths, then another from inside that, until he was left with a tiny coin purse. Jasmin McCarroll’s laughing backpack was another good idea, underdeveloped. As for the dance element, its arbitrariness was a problem. The tumbling, sprinting and capoeira-like moves were energetically done, but they contributed little to the theme. Spoken text was minimal, too, with the result that overall there was too much slack.

Head over Heels, performed by a quartet styling themselves as an alternative Spice Girls, established its comic tone more firmly. Pouting their way through synchronised voguing routines, cheesy personal introductions and rhyming chants left us in no doubt of their satirical intent. Contemporary dance training came in for some gentle fun-poking. “Stillness is an option” one of them informed us in hushed tones. The loose, random-seeming structure was confidently handled, and the balance between dance and chat a happy one. The girls sang, name-dropped and executed classical pliés (still in their high heels). Their monologues ranged widely, touching on Brexit. Overall, the piece had the feel of an end-of-term revue: a bit too in-house for general consumption, but fun nonetheless.

Untitled 3 + X has the kind of title that gives art a bad name. Co-choreographers Zjana Muraro and Gianna Burright should try harder, because they have created something rather special. Like the previous two pieces, it was very loosely structured, like them it made use of spoken text, yet the result couldn’t be more different. It was entrancing. A mix of live and recorded ambient music, a lone dancer in an absurdly oversized baby-pink jacket, an actress who described to us an exotic beach scene, and later took a call on her phone (“Look, I can’t talk right now … I’m in the middle of something”) - what did it all add up to? Hard to say, but its suggestions of Brazilian beats and Brazilian heat seeped under your skin. And when all six performers quietly slipped off one by one leaving a crackly projection of white- out on a screen, you were left not with a sense of bewilderment, but of having had an experience, full and complete. Remarkable.

Jenny Gilbert


All performances are richly entertaining at Resolution tonight. A&O's The Growing-up Game is an ambitious exploration of how relational dynamics learned at school are brought into adulthood. Three dancers in school clothes carrying backpacks fill the space, marching and diving playfully over each other to high-octane rock music. Abruptly a claxon sounds, and they transit into being adult workers, as a sterile managerial voice booms commands over the PA. A series of childish tasks are set (such as hand-slapping), which fuel a  fierce competition. Throughout, each retains their backpack, which contains unique contents they must eventually exhume. Although the ending feels disjointed and rushed, the piece is accomplished, enjoyable and laugh out loud funny.

Head over Heels by Shades of Bray is a raucous splatter-gun montage from four sassy lasses. Glammed-up in heels and micro- skirts they prance around to 90s pop. The group delivers light pop group routines, ballet, hypersexual grinds, poses a plenty and liberal bottom slaps. They communicate directly with the audience in rhyme, prose or pop lyrics. The gamut of topics includes personal accounts of being trained as contemporary dancers (with playful ribbing of former teachers and dance hyperbole), Brexit and love lives. The paradoxical fires of intense swagger and teetering insecurity blaze the stage. Like the exaggerated strutting and lairy chat, the comedic caricatures are effective and fun, yet jarring and slightly tiring.

The final piece, Untitled 3 + x from Zjana Muraro & Gianna Burright has magnetic appeal. A musical trio of guitarist, singer and laptop soundman share the stage with a storyteller and dancer Zjana Muraro. The Portuguese singer Caterina Dos Santos is incredible. Her sensual wailing intimately traces the angular yet floating elegance of Muraro; they seem to fuse together in the ether. Intermittently the music is broken with a snippet from the storyteller. Monochrome visuals add further texture, mostly flickering white lines of static. Although the subject matter remains enigmatic, the alchemy onstage is engrossing.

Cath Carver


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