Thursday, 26 September 2019

DANCE REVIEW: Wasteland - Northern Stage - Newcastle-Upon-Tyne

Wasteland is the sequel to Clarke’s most recent production Coal. Coal portrayed the struggle of mining communities during one of the UK’s most infamous political battles in recent history, the miners’ strike of 1984/5. Both pieces come from a personal place as Clarke grew up in the mining village of Grimethorpe and personally witnessed the downfall of the Grimethorpe Colliery in 1994. He saw first-hand the reality of life as a pitman and how that crumbled following the upheaval. It was in fact Gary’s older brother David who inspired the creation of the sequel. During one of the post-show discussions whilst on tour with Coal, a man asked Gary “What about us Gary? What about the next generation?” It was David. He had been a raver in his teenage years and thus the premise was born. Wasteland continues to follow lead dancer Alistair Goldsmith’s character from Coal and explores how his generation gave exhaustedly into submission whilst that of his son rebelled.

Wasteland is in every way the perfect balance. It seamlessly blends rave movement with contemporary dance in such a way that it does not simply feel like one is paying to see what you could see in any nightclub but simultaneously remains true to the original movement language. The dancers' training and expertise is apparent, yet it is also apparent that their characters are normal people who are raving rather than dancers who are raving. This is best displayed in the fight scene which merges all the control and grace of the dancers' movements with the fury of their characters. They remain perfectly synchronised; their movements are immaculately precise and thrum with intense energy. It is a true feat of endurance. This is, in part, how they so successfully create the illusion that it is 5000 people dancing in a derelict warehouse when in reality there are only 5 people on stage. Credit must also be given to the creative team (Lighting & video design: Charles Webber and Set & Costume design: Ryan Dawson Laight), who so effectively cut the stage to make this atmosphere possible.

At the heart of the production, Wasteland is a community show. It is about the destruction of one community and how the youth attempted to combat this by creating their own, but it is made unique to each venue’s community by the involvement of local musicians. It is a full circle in multiple senses: the Thatcher government shut down the mining community and so the rave community was born and it subsequently shut that down also, but now Clarke is returning the Rave movement to the people and places that created it. It allows each audience to in some way feel that the show is theirs, whether they have connections to the former mining community or not; a slice of home on stage.

A truly exhilarating viewing, Wasteland tells a raw human narrative through an intense but still somehow real form of movement. Clarke revealed that the third instalment of the trilogy will be completed in a few years and will explore Section 28 and the government's handling of the gay community in the 1980s. Expect big things, if it is anything like Wasteland then it is sure to be a must-see show.

Reviewer - Rhiannon Walls
on - 25/9/19

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