Chelsea Hotel – Earthfall: Riverside Studios, Hammersmith, London, 6 November 2013

Elvis didn’t want to go to Chelsea

Pull the other one! Ros Haf Brooks regrets swallowing all that helium in Chelsea Hotel.

Pull the other one! Ros Haf Brooks regrets swallowing all that helium in Chelsea Hotel. Photo by Hugo Glendinning

Despite containing many good things – some extraordinary things in fact – Earthfall’s Chelsea Hotel somehow contrives to be disappointing.

The ropey old bed, the tatty wooden table and the vintage fridge conjure up the right atmosphere for the famously grimy New York haunt of artists and drop-outs and they also leave plenty of well-used scope for imaginatively jumping all over them. The cinema-size screen that makes up the backdrop is well incorporated into the action by using images evocative of the hotel’s history interjected with live relays of the dancers talking or performing. The three piece band, while rarely getting the pulse racing with their curious mix of pleasant cod-Americana and 80s synthesizer poppiness, are all excellent musicians.

The four dancers are incredible athletes and they create the extraordinary bits. For the most part the choreography is a bland mash of weak and inexpressive movement that reveals little of the group of friends’ lives, emotions or purpose. But suddenly, a long way into the piece, war breaks out between Sebastian Langueneur and Alex Marshall Parsons and the thing bursts into life.

Physical violence is clearly Earthfall’s forte. The two fighters literally hurl each other across the stage, thumping their bodies to the floor with astonishingly fluid (and painful-looking) force. Cleverly crafted and brilliantly executed, it’s the charismatic Ros Haf Brooks’ turn next and she causes winces in the audience by crashing headlong into the fridge. It’s an incredible thing to see all this happening so convincingly and so close.

They also hold some astounding balances; Haf Brooks’ again somehow sits on the back of Marshall Parsons’ neck and then another time holds herself horizontally from the bedpost but all the dancers have their moments.

However, violence apart, the Chelsea Hotel choreography presents a sanitised, squeaky clean view of what the place was like – what The Carpenters were to the Velvet Underground – and consequently comes across as a rather cheesy idealisation of the determinedly grotty Manhattan landmark.

Chelsea Hotel remains at the Riverside Studios until 16 November 2013 and then continues its’ UK tour until 5 December. See the Earthfall website for tickets and a full list of venues.

Gerard Davis

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