Sadler’s Wells is one of the few theatres where I can honestly say I have so far never seen a bad show and Jasmin Vardimon’s “Park” has continued my run of successful visits there. Not the usual modern dance production, “Park” combines a range of dance styles, eclectic music – sometimes sung by the amazingly talented cast – 3D projection, lighting effects and more twists and turns than an Alton Towers rollercoaster to bring to life the story of 8 ordinary people who frequent, live and work in a standard inner-city park that has seen better days. The centre-piece of the park is the historic statue of a mermaid sitting atop a rock over a pond with a fountain. We get told the history of the statue by a local ‘Property Developer/Politician’ as he tries to convince a ‘Japanese Investor’ to help him re-develop the park and realise its commercial potential – once the undesirable locals have been ‘moved on’ of course.
Whilst the characters in the show are not actually named, all of them were so well defined that ‘identities’ instantly sprang to mind. So, as well as the two mentioned above there was ‘ASBO Boy’ (the local bully and cock-of-the-walk), ‘Refugee Lady’ (a ‘bag’ lady who introduced an entirely new take on twerking and whose sneezes had the oddest effect), ‘Homeless Man’ (bullied and continually begging people to share the love), ‘The Vamp’ (using her beauty to seduce and who has a secret), ‘The Busker’ (summoned to perform by the rattling of a fence, a man who likes to write) and finally ‘Chav Girl’ (girlfriend of ASBO boy but in reality so much more). Over the course of 95 minutes they interact with each other, often in strange and unexpected ways. For example, you wouldn’t necessarily expect “Singing in the Rain”, “Oh I do like to be Beside the Seaside” and “The Power of Love (Frankie Goes to Hollywood version) to be used in a contemporary dance piece but here they are, along with other familiar and unfamiliar music, to great effect. The set is plain, a fenced off fountain with a mermaid, a streetlamp, a bench, some flowers and a TARDIS like dog-poo bin, but is used to fantastic effect, including at one point an almost ‘Stomp’ like accompaniment to the dance and another where ‘The Vamp’ was laying on top of a single panel of fencing barely centimetres wide while singing.
But it is the choreography and dancing that completely holds the audience spellbound. The cast – Luke Burrough, Maria Doulgeri, Esteban Pourmi, Nevena Jovanovic, David Lloyd, Silke Muys, Aoi Nakamura – were absolutely fantastic but I really would like to single out Uros Petronijevic who had the role of the character I described as ‘ASBO Boy’. This guy was truly superb. His dancing skills were amazing and he could manipulate a basketball better than a member of the Harlem Globtrotters. However, as I said before all of the cast were wonderful and really displayed Jasmin Vardimon’s choreography to its best. There were some amazing scenes such as the one where ‘The Vamp’ was on the shoulders of ‘The Busker’ and the two dancers literally moved as one to create a single 10ft tall person. Then there was the dance between ‘ASBO Boy’ and ‘Refugee Lady’ where the basketball became the third member of the pas-de-deux as it moved seamlessly between the two of them. There were some really intriguing moments in the choreography which seemed to illustrate how close humans really are to animals and these were the subject of much discussion afterwards.
All told, the show contained so many spectacular and gripping scenes it was a mesmerising experience of emotions, comedy and drama from the opening of the curtain through to the highly surprising conclusion. ‘Park’ has been fully reworked for 2014 and the show continues to tour until the end of November so if you miss it at Sadler’s Wells go and search it out while you can.
Review by Terry Eastham
Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist Jasmin Vardimon is a leading force in British dance theatre. Enjoying sell-out performances across the UK and internationally, her company’s works include Freedom, Justitia, 7734 and Yesterday. Vardimon returns this autumn with a new version of her hit show PARK, the first of Vardimon’s large scale stage works.
PARK is an urban oasis, a place of refuge from ordinary life where eight characters play, fight, fall in love and learn to survive. In this playground of relationships, young lovers wrestle in a historic fountain, a graffiti artist sprays his story, a busker finds his only appreciative audience in a bag lady, and a flag-waving bully rants worn out political beliefs. Their stories intertwine creating a modern day fairytale that is alternately sharp, funny and cruel.
Contrasting pieces set to an eclectic soundtrack that includes Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Brian Eno and Fiona Apple, PARK has been reworked for 2014 with new 3D imaging, presenting a breathtaking collision of highly acute physical theatre, text, athletic dance and funky music, delivering fresh statements about our time.
Remainder of the tour
10 & 11 November – Sadler’s Wells
0844 412 4300
14 November – Octagon Yeovil
19 November – Theatre Severn
21 November – Brighton Dome
Tuesday 11th November 2014