Hofesh Shechter’s UK premiere of the sublime and exhilarating SHOW is surprisingly presented at the small Lyric theatre in Hammersmith, away from the expected West End main stages, which makes it feel like an extra special discovery.
The anticipation for SHOW starts before you even take your seat in the Lyric’s intimate and ornate theatre, as you’re warned of haze, strobes and loud music.
Smoke spills from the stage, the lights off, a deep rumbling base blares and 8 clowns emerge in a line, backs to the audience steeped in a moody yellow haze. As the music beats, the clowns slowly and ominously turn to the audience and the ‘show’ starts. They begin to move, their bodies drop side to side, head nodding, faces bleak, creating an unnerving but intriguing realisation that this is not going to be your typical circus show.
There’s a definite glimpse of the darkness to come, and come it does and it doesn’t stop until the last beat of the last death of this macabre circus of comedy, murder and desire.
As the show builds, the dancers swing from tribal, ritualistic, unbridled freeform dance that’s low and flailing to contrasting controlled, morose structured steps as they play the role of the ‘clowns’ or the ‘kings’.
And while the performance is comic, it’s also subtly disturbing in a Hofesh confronting way that makes some of the audience nervously giggle, as desire gives way to death and the stage is filled with murder under cabaret-style fairy lights.
Performed by Shechter II dancers who each inject their own individual style into their clown with sharp arms, beating feet, pulsating bodies; they shake, shimmer and at times pirouette and port de bra in a bizarre balletic moment.
A showman ringmasters violent stabbings, throat slitting, shootings, eye gauging, hangings, electrocutions and firing squads, that starts shocking and sensationalised and is replayed over and over until it desensitises the viewer.
The morbid violence feels terroristic, ritualistic and extreme as the dancers acting skills make the scene both serious and darkly humorous. The music, also by Hofesh, has a continual baseline and a bouncy circusy tune that we end up humming as the curtain comes down, except the show doesn’t quite finish.
The ‘clowns’ take their bow, we celebrate their show, but it feels like we just supported the mindless murders of innocents while smiling. It’s an interesting position to find we have become unwilling, but active participants, in the wielding of ultimate power of the kings over the clowns, who fall and die at their hands in scenes captured in frozen flashes, that could be instagramable moments of murder and massacre.
The dancers are incredible, giving an unstoppable and intoxicating performance of Hofesh’s complex and unrelenting choreography that’s full of abandon, rage, joy and intelligence that is bracing and exhilarating.
On a personal note, Hofesh’s work speaks to me in a way that is very rare – I find myself contemplating deep questions about society, humanity, politics and power as I watch the piece unfold. I left the Lyric excited, elevated, challenged and unable to stop talking about the impact of this incredible SHOW, that is definitely not to be missed!
SHOW only runs to 12 May!
Reviewed on 8 May 2018 at Lyric, Hammersmith.