Currency 1 – Clément Layes and Jan Martens: The Place, London, 20 November 2012

Mad Hitters’ tea party

Jan Martens, A small guide on how to treat your lifelong companion

The pheromones seemed to be wearing off for Jan Martens in A small guide on how to treat your lifelong partner

Forever trying to come up with positive new ways to attract the public to contemporary dance, The Place have launched the Currency festival. Showcasing six rarely seen European choreographers over three nights they’re also opening dialogues between them and The Place’s resident Work Place artists by pairing them up to create impromptu pre-show performances, a choreographic ‘blind date’ as the programme notes puts it. Not only that but, charmingly, free food is included in the ticket price – tonight’s offering was a sandwich, cup of soup and some fruit.

After sampling Jan Martens and Place Prize finalist Eva Recacha’s freshly pressed piece in the Founder’s Studio (a strangely engrossing music-less tick-tocking of arms) it was time for the main event downstairs.

Clément Layes’ piece of pure physical theatre Der grüne Stuhl is already underway as you walk into the auditorium. Two men are taking turns to film each other, apparently unable to express themselves properly. Cleverly, the created footage comes back to resolve itself at the end but the 50 minute journey getting there is dull. Giving up the camera fairly early on Layes’ and Felix Marchand obsessively move some chairs around. For ages. The re-emergence of one of the performers with his head digitally screwed on backwards is visually arresting but only mildly interesting and the clever resolve seems rather pointless when it comes.

Much better is Jan Marten’s snappily titled A small guide on how to treat your lifetime companion. It’s structured around the simple narrative of a couple meeting, going crazy for each other, then physically trying to hurt each other (with some painful sounding breast-banging) until finally reaching a tender acceptance of each other. Martens himself and Steefka Zijlstra rarely stray more than a few inches apart and frenzy turns to reflection and back with well-thought out simple movements that create genuine tension and intimacy between them. The piece, however, didn’t need the cheesy ballad at the end, the reconciliation had already been successfully portrayed.

And, for those of obscenely curious bent, I had a cheese sandwich and some lentil soup.

Tickets for Currency 2 on 23 November (Choreographers Alessandro Sciarroni and Mor Shani; food Burritos) and Currency 3 on 27 November (Choreographers Tabea Martin and Alma Söderberg; food falafel) are available from http://www.theplace.org.uk/

Gerard Davis

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