Tag Archives: Motionhouse

Shooting for the Moon

STARCHITECTS: A Mission to the Moon!

Birmingham Hippodrome, Friday 3rd February 2023

Motionhouse’s new production is aimed squarely at a family audience, in particular the youngest members of the family.  Five children, portrayed by grown-up performers, are having a sleepover, although sleep is the farthest thing from their fertile little minds.  With tireless energy, these effervescent children bounce around, using cardboard boxes in their play-acting, creating a ceaselessly imaginative sequence in which the boxes are hiding places, an aeroplane, a castle, a train… It’s a dazzling way to start the show before the story proper begins.

The boxes form a huge telescope through which they espy the moon and two girls (Moon fairies, no less).  The kids decide to go to the moon to visit the fairies.  The boxes become a ziggurat on which is projected their rocket – the backdrop is a vast screen onto which stunning visuals are displayed.  The screen is made of strips so the performers can disappear into holes, through windows and so on, and magically reappear.  Visually, the show cannot be faulted.  The digital imagery, by Logela Multimedia, adds colour and excitement as well as denoting setting.

So the kids get to the moon, encounter an alien life form with slinkies for limbs and eyes where its hands should be, but they’re never really in danger.  They meet the fairies and then get back in their rocket and come home.  All of this is underscored by original music by Tim Dickinson and Sophy Smith, which definitely adds atmosphere and drama but at times it’s a bit too loud.  The performers often vocalise to each other and sometimes invite the audience to call out, but we can’t often hear what they’re saying and only glean an impression of their dialogue – which is fine, this is a visual show after all where movement is the main focus, but a bit of contrast in volume levels would have helped.

The performers are uniformly excellent, agile and acrobatic.  Their timing when interacting with the animation is impeccable.  The characters are also uniform in their exuberance and behaviour so it’s hard to pick out anyone in particular.  The direction by Kevin Finnan and the choreography, also by Finnan and the cast, keep the simple story clear and easy to follow.  I would have liked a bit more jeopardy other than a couple of ‘It’s behind you’ moments to help me engage with the characters and their adventure.

Visually stunning and technically perfect, the show has plenty of wow moments but it doesn’t engage on an emotional level, which is the only missing ingredient for me.

☆ ☆ ☆ and a half!


Something to Crow About

Motionhouse: NOBODY

Birmingham Hippodrome, Friday 4th February 2022

This latest piece from dance company Motionhouse seeks to externalise the internal.  Our inner voices, represented here by crows, are what keep us apart from others.  Our inner doubts, fears and concerns prevent us from achieving our potential as individuals and as a society.  The show begins with the performers moving like crows, settling on the rooftops of tall buildings in a cityscape projected on the backdrop and on the set.  Then we meet human characters, each of them caught up with their own crow, holding them back, keeping them distracted, and so on.

Above all, the show is a visual feast, as the performers move around an ever-shifting set.  A huge cube frame, when covered in fabric, becomes a building emerging from the background.  The cast physically move this structure around – putting the motion house in Motionhouse, you might say.  Stripped of its fabric, the cube becomes a room, a cage.  The way the performers move and manipulate the frame while they move in, on, and through it, is spellbinding.

The second act begins with swimmers in a stylised ocean, heads, arms, and torsos rising from the cloth, thrashing and flailing around, until one figure rises up, impossibly tall.  This is a turning point.  From now on, the crows are no longer around.  The humans move together, supporting and helping each other to get over obstacles  in the landscape (the cube frame) and creating a sense of shared purpose, harmony and cooperation.  If we don’t listen to our inner voice, the piece appears to say, then we will really get somewhere as a species.  It’s a back-to-basics approach.  The performers are like a tribe of prehistoric humans, and also a giant, multi-headed organism.  The individuals have become parts of the whole, a mass of limbs and heads and trousers.

Of course, one’s inner voice isn’t necessarily negative.  Quite the contrary.  Perhaps the crows could turn into doves or something.

Brimming with ideas, the show doesn’t give you time to absorb and reflect; it’s constantly shifting and changing, presenting each next idea, expressing the next concept, so you get an overall impression of the experience with some moments and images that stick in your mind’s eye – a man drowning in a water tank, for example.  What impresses, perhaps more than the content of the piece, is the proficiency of the performers.  Their circus skills blend in seamlessly with contemporary dance, extending the range of the performers and what is achievable in their storytelling.

Captivating and breath-taking, Nobody has something for everybody.

⭐⭐⭐⭐

See the source image
A murder of crows!