Edinburgh Fringe 2016
“Can you stay true to yourself, when everything suggests you change? 201’s raw, contemporary hip hop returns in Smother: a story of two men’s broken encounter. Returning after a sold out Edinburgh Fringe 2015 and acclaimed international tour, this groundbreaking production touches on themes of addiction, obsession and commitment. Choreographer Andrea Walker directs a cast of seven dancers in a fast-paced, intimate performance, exploring the relationship of two young men”
Smother, by 201 Dance Company, follows the lives of three couples: a love triangle of gay men, two lesbians, and finally, a heterosexual couple. The dance team tackle the concept of LGBT in the unexpected form of hip-hop. The start of the production introduces you to the cast of seven dancers with a superbly synchronised dance. The routine then splits off and follows in the footsteps of these couples and picks up on the lows and highs of any relationship.
The audience is targeted for 12+ year olds, and as I sit in my seat watching more and more people fill the room, the crowd varies in age – from early 20’s to late 60’s. Proving that Smother is relatable to anyone who has ever experienced love in any form.
The lighting could not be faulted – a round of applause to Louisa Smurthwaite and Norvydas Genys for this addition. There were instances of spotlights, some from lower angles (shedding knew light and shapes) to full stage lighting and additional colour changing lighting that add value and exclusive ambiance to each scene. With the addition of the ‘additive’ product of powder, or chalk dust, the lighting becomes hazy and foggy – a symbol for the emotion of the scene.
No dancer outshines the other; all have an exquisite presence, demonstrating their passion for dance. Even in a solo, the dancers make an appearance as a background extra to add to the setting. As dancer Michaela Cisarikova struggles to find comfort within society about her ‘taboo’ liking of a female, the dancers walk past without a hint of interest, adding to the desperation for freely expressing herself.
The music reflected the intentions of the script beautifully. It was almost as if it was written for the dance, instead of the other way round. Lyrics were emphasised through dance equivalent steps. For heartache there are ‘caving-in’ gestures of the chest – a pain anyone can relate to. The audience is almost brought to tears with the suffering that occurs with the character and choreographer, Andrea Walker. He shows insecurities and struggle throughout the relationship. While he suffers, so too does the audience.
The dancers know when their faces need to show more power than their moves and use convincing smiles or frowns to enhance their movements. The dancers, with particular note of Dineshi Nirgunananthan’s facial expression, show that to not only be a good dancer, you need to be a good actor/actress.
The finale ends like it began, with all seven dancers taking their place on stage. The audience is left questioning the outcome of all the relationships. There is no happy nor sad conclusion, we are left pondering the cliff-hanger.
Although I didn’t have a chance to speak with the dancers after the show, the vibe from the performances left me thinking that this was a personal subject for all of them: whether directly or indirectly. I would highly recommend this show to anyone and everyone. Even if you don’t have an interest in dance, the emotions 201 Dance Company take you through are captivating. From addiction to obsession and finally to commitment, the performance touches on emotions anyone can relate to. It makes for a moving production that all the members: dancers, lighting designers, and directors included, something to be very proud of.