Battle of the Planets
There’s no denying that the performers of Sheffield-based Vincent Dance Theatre are a very talented bunch. Between them they can play piano, guitar, violin, cello, bass, percussion and harmonica. They’re deft mime artists, striking physical acrobats and can sing like birds. They can dance too, when called upon, but sadly director Charlotte Vincent rarely requires them to.
Motherland is far too episodic to retain any sense of cohesion and too indebted to Pina Bausch in its repetitious randomness to truly find its own persuasive voice. The general gist seemed to be that being a woman is no fun at all while being a man is of no consequence at all.
The women splattered themselves with blood and rolled around in a pile of earth a lot. They sang songs about the contradictory expectations of women, they spoke to the audience, they questioned things and told traumatic stories about childbirth. The only time a male character really came alive was when Janusz Orlik donned a frock and heels and threw a few Beyoncé shapes.
As an exploration of the full spectrum of masculinity and femininity (as defined in Vincent’s programme notes) it failed to engage with the male voice. The consequence was that the women appeared to be fighting no-one but themselves and were therefore self-perpetuating the very same stagnant feminine stereotypes they were purported to be railing against.
The ten performers, ranging from the ages of 12 to 78, were excellent. Andrea Catania earned her comic chops trying to decide whether to be a tree or a woman. Patrycja Kujawska, in blond fright-wig and black underwear, sang/snarled her way through a bitter diatribe on the perils of womanhood and then hugged the backscreen while pouring out a moving ballad. Orlik’s transvestite turn was funny and concluded with a glamorous jumped splits. Aurora Lubos’ menstrual interruptions were very effective, there was a fantastic slow-motion fight scene where all sorts of places to stick a stiletto heel were demonstrated and the live music that peppered the show was always welcome. Sadly, none of this could prevent Motherland falling into a disappointing bittiness.