Far, Sadler’s Wells, London

Far is a new piece made by Wayne McGregor for his Random Dance troupe, its acronymic title owed to Roy Porter’s Flesh in the Age of Reason, a study of theories about body and soul in the later 18th century. That is all par for the course in light of the heavy intellectual luggage with which McGregor’s burdens his dance-making. But “Far too Far” might be a more honourable identification for a work of exquisite tedium and limb-wrenching gymnastics.

The piece is, in effect, the mixture as before, but longer (it runs for an uninterrupted hour) and more aggressively portentous in its posturings and anxious encounters, where what looks like a bad day with the Sodom and Gomorrah tag-wrestling team may be thought to relate to the Enlightenment’s concerns with the nature of physical and spiritual action. Matters are in no way helped by the soundtrack from Ben Frost, which booms and rages and involves aural effects that sound as if someone is taking to pig-sticking in quite the wrong way. It provides a nasty counterpoint to McGregor’s customary muscular jerks and twitches, those distorted gestures torn from the dancers’ frames that bespeak a quest for novelty at all cost.

The admirable cast of five women and five men are superbly dedicated to their awkward tasks. The redeeming feature of this event (on until the end of the week at Sadler’s Wells) is the grace of Lucy Carter’s lighting. She transforms a stage by her artistry, achieves ravishing images, not least when she bathes this leaden event in a golden glow: an alchemist’s dream come true. There is also what might laughingly be termed a set: a broad band of lighting that provides electronic flashings, while the costumes, basic and better-hidden garments, are also credited to a designer.

McGregor, as maker of dances, is absolutely of the moment, his work widely shown, widely believed to have relevance and physical bravura and, quite possibly, curative powers for cases of dengue. I find his creations sterile, portentous, hung about – like some processional statue in a Spanish cathedral – with intellectual gewgaws, and aggressively the same. And Far is more of this tedious same. ()


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