Sun – ballet with choreography and music by Hofesh Shechter
Dancers – Hofesh Shechter Company
Marle Hensel – Set design
Lee Curran – Lighting design
Christina Cunningham – Costume design
Reviewed by: G. J. Dowler
Reviewed: 30 October, 2013
Venue: Sadler's Wells Theatre, London EC1
I much prefer Hofesh Shechter in the shadows. I am a fan, and have welcomed previous works such as Political Mother and Uprising/in your rooms, but I cannot express much enthusiasm for Sun, his latest venture which promises to be brighter than his previous creations – Shechter specialises in a nervy, disturbed quality, darks shadows, exceptionally loud music and a distinctive choreographic vocabulary derived from a wide range of sources. That vocabulary is still there in Sun, the lolloping gait, the folk-dance moves, the fiddly hand gestures and there are flashes of wit, but Shechter has presently caught a raging dose of ‘nineteen-seventies-itis’.
In Sun, a very long sequence of non-sequiturs serves to alienate the audience – huge placards of sheep are moved across the stage, a ‘plant’ in the audience screams from time to time, a sort of ‘conductor/mad professor’ figure rants at the other dancers and the paying audience with tedious frequency, and a body drops from a noose in the closing moments. It has all been done before, and it wasn’t particularly impressive the first time round. The dancers cannot be faulted, engaged totally in the scatty nonsense of Sun; they are a varied company who work as one, while still being able to hold the stage in solos – the best section was a male solo which evoked a prisoner desperately alone in a cell.
Lee Curan, Shechter’s usual lighting designer, has surpassed himself in a virtuosic display of his craft, dozens of light bulbs hanging over the stage used to spectacular effect. Merle Hessel’s mottled, curved back-cloth is most pleasing, and one can even accept the strange mélange of Christina Cunningham’s costumes. But, it is what the dancers are called upon to do during the 75 minutes of Sun that does not convince (why are choreographers opting for this length of time at the moment? I am a firm believer that if you can’t say what you want to say in 30 minutes, then don’t say it at all). Shechter has gone for a smörgåsbord of music and sound, ranging from bagpipes and ‘Abide with Me’ to white noise and an excerpt from Tannhäuser, plus, of course, the trademark heavy rhythms of Shechter’s own compositions. I fail to discern either rhyme or reason to it all, and confess to huge disappointment with Sun; Shechter is a very interesting maker of movement whose next work I shall look forward to. I suppose even the best have their off days.