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Dance Theatre Review: Wasteland at Nottingham Playhouse

31 October 19 words: Kate Hewett

Kate Hewett went to Nottingham Playhouse to check out Gary Clark's dance theatre production Wasteland...

Wasteland, choreographed by Gary Clark and co-commissioned by Nottingham Playhouse, premiered on Friday 25 October, and it was a visually exciting, intriguing performance.

The dance theatre production followed the effects of the mining closure in 1994 of Grimethorpe Colliery. Two deafening themes were present during the performance; loss of employment, the effect on identity and social productivity, and the effects of law enforcement and government have on the working man.

The dancers who portrayed both the father and son shared the stage together, and the emotional distance between the two was beautifully shown. As the father turned to drink to deal with his loss of identity and the son turned to the illegal rave scene, which the police were anxious to shut down. 

The father never left the stage, and was involved in the action either directly or indirectly. When indirectly involved the father figure would sit upstage centre on a comfortable chair and watch the TV in despair. This character had no release from his pain of losing his livelihood, this enhanced the release the son and the ensemble were having during the rave sequences.  

In the rave sequences, all moments had lots of repetition, especially involving the dancers performing short, sharp arm movements for long lengths of time. The dancers’ stamina was impressive and the ensembled was formed with excellent dancers. Visually this was very interesting and with the presence of a now ex-coal miner on the stage the relationship between these moments and the actions of coal mining was clear to see. This enhanced the relationship between the older generations having no release and the younger generation creating illegal but well-intentioned raves as outlets for their time, energy and their uncertainty.

The mise-en-scene set the pace for the play from the start, the cold mostly unfurnished stage with two chairs, and a TV. The house lights were suddenly switched off and replaced with spotlights on the stage, creating a tunnel effect to expose a performance with its roots in the coal mines. There also was a mattress that was dragged on and off the stage, a reminder that with the closing of the mine there was little money coming into many families.

While watching the performance, I noticed the narrative was male centric and there were no female characters at all. The narrative expressed mainly two themes, loss and uncertainty, although there certainly would have been loss and uncertainty during the mine closure there would have been other emotions too. I would have enjoyed a more nuanced and diverse reaction showed in this moment of the character’s life.

That being said, the performance was visually fantastic and the rave dance sequences were a treat.

Wasteland showed at Nottingham Playhouse on Friday 25 October 2019

Nottingham Playhouse website

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