Although this preview of HOME’s Theatre One space was clearly billed as Hofesh Shechter & Friends, some of the audience were sufficiently intimidated by the promise from said friends, 72% Morrissey (and, no, this three-piece instrumental group didn’t explain what the name is all about) “of playing the heaviest and most unsettling music they could muster” in the second half of the night that they either didn’t return or left pretty hurriedly as the aural onslaught raged on.
A pity that, because, even if 72% Morrissey didn’t 100% float my boat either, the very fact that they were playing at all struck me as indicative of the sort of bravery and willingness to confront stick-in-the-mud attitudes that HOME espouses. At the very least it proves they’ve got a startling robust sound system in the theatre.
It’s possible, though –and to be a tiny bit more charitable – that they were so impressed by the two dance pieces from Shechter’s company in the first half that they didn’t want to risk besmirching that impression. Because both Shechter’s choreographic debut Fragments which began the evening and the world premiere piece tHE bAD (irritatingly, that really is what it’s called – what is it with HOME and type sizes?) were both tremendous.
I didn’t see Fragments at its 2003 debut and chances since have been few and far between, so this was a welcome opportunity to catch up with a key work for a choreographer whose own musical scores and choreography are very much of a piece, technically accomplished yet challenging, often startling and slightly elusive. You always feel as if you’re chasing the piece and complacency just isn’t an audience option.
The highlight of the evening was undoubtedly tHE bAD. When HOME’s Walter Meierjohann and David Fry, who did sterling work bringing dance theatre to The Lowry, contacted Shechter they were intrigued to learn that he was working on a new trilogy, due to premiere in Berlin in July. The first part, barbarians in love, had already been seen in Austria last year but he was looking for somewhere to premiere the second part and HOME, with its vision for interconnecting art with a European point of view, suddenly became the obvious choice.
It’s a striking piece, not least on account of the alarmingly revealing skin-tight suits worn by the dancers, but less flippantly because of the jaw-dropping control and physicality they also display. Again, the piece is elusive but embraces fun and darkness, fragility and strength. Parts are almost tribal, others are far more formal yet graceful.
An inspired choice then for the first official theatre piece at a venue that, even before its official opening, is creating waves on the local and international scene.
Main image by Ben Rudick
Hofesh Shechter & Friends is at HOME, Manchester until May 2, 2015