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Brighton Fringe 2011


Karavan Ensemble

Genre: Dance and Movement Theatre


West Hill Community Centre


Low Down

A dance theatre site specific performance illuminated by lamps 


This site-specific performance began on the Big Lemon Bus – a vehicle local to Brighton which runs on waste cooking oil. We waited at a town centre location for the bus to pick us up and take us to the venue. When aboard, we saw that a variety of table lamps had been placed on some of the seats towards the back of the vehicle. Once we had set off, they were used as the basis for a conversation between a French performer and whichever member of the audience was sitting nearest to a light.
Being entertained on the bus was interesting, but the performer could only be heard when she was facing the audience, and as all the lamps were placed towards the back of the bus she tended to stand near them and so kept losing the people at the front -so perhaps trying to engage all the passengers simultaneously was too ambitious.  If the intention was to get the audience talking to each other it didn’t work, but nevertheless it introduced the theme of the show well; the characteristics of each individual lamp were explained as the bus drove around town a few times before heading to the venue.
When we disembarked we were held in a queue for a few minutes before entering the venue, during which time there were performers frolicking around and draped around the entrance in various poses in an attempt to engage with the queue. This was not at all successful except in the case of one dancer who was performing an intricate sequence with a web of red coloured thread, like an advanced version of French skipping, which was quite enthralling to watch.
Once inside, the show began with a group of women on stage, lit behind a piece of gauze, playing cards, which gradually became more stylised to become a dance piece. The use of props and lighting gave a dream like quality to the performance which worked well. This was followed by a sequence reminiscent of a Far Eastern shadow puppet play with music to match, again enhanced by lighting effects to create a cinematic feel. Both of these used comedy to good effect, but it was the excellent lighting that really made them work thus illustrating the message that this was a show in which light was playing a central theme.
What followed was patchy in quality. There were long sequences in which dancers were moving slowly with small lights, exploring levels, but it went on for far too long and the audience’s interest waned. There was some welcome relief when one of the performers interacted with a series of table lamps, animating and communicating with them, and a beautiful and very watchable dance from the same performer who had danced for the queue and who moved very well compared to the rest of the troupe, but then there were more long slow movement sequences and long speeches in foreign languages in a style that seemed old fashioned, reminiscent of 1980’s dance theatre and that came across as somewhat pretentious. 
The work picked up towards the end when audience members were invited onto the stage to illuminate the performers with small hand held lamps. This created a quiet but exciting space and really used the multi-disciplinary nature of the work to good effect, combining music, visual imagery, dance and physical theatre.
In all, this was a work in progress. It shows a lot of promise and has all the right ingredients to become a truly inspiring show, with some truly wonderful sections, but it is not there yet.