8 November 2013

Chelsea Hotel at the Riverside

My approach of booking theatre on the merest whim worked out well yet again with Chelsea Hotel.

This time I thought that I was going to a play and I got an energetic modern dance instead. And that's good.

There were drama elements to Chelsea Hotel but these are told with just a few words and these are spoken in to camera and presented to us on a large screen in the centre of the stage.

The middle of the stage was left bare for us to see the screen and for the dancing. One one side of the stage was a kitchen table with chairs and on the other a wrought iron bed. Hiding behind the bed (most of the time) were three musicians playing guitars, keyboards and drums.

The cast was just four dancers, two men and two women.

The music made the first impact. It was loud and in a rock vein. The brash rhythmic sounds set the tone for the action.

The dancing was a vigorous as the music. There was lots of whole body movement, tumbling and driving across the stage, and physical interplays that mimicked sex and violence. It was all very energetic and athletic, and it was beautiful too.

Chelsea Hotel certainly had a consistent look and feel to it but within that the mood changed with the scenes and the emotions ranged from tender love to violent passion.

My favourite scene was probably the Lesbian Downton Abbey one during which my front row seat brought me into direct contact with one of the dancers. Other front-rowers were touched or approached in other scenes.

A nice touch was the wandering minstrels. The use of wireless technology enabled those playing guitar (they all played more than one instrument) to wander out from behind the bed to show us that they were real people. The drummer also escaped for one particularly rhythmic number and he played his small electronic drum at head height while standing. It all added to the drama.

The combination of the pulsating music, physical action and the close proximity to the action made it an exciting and exhilarating performance. The choreography and overall design was well thought out and constructed. The performers, musicians and dancers, all played their parts well. Blogger's privilege allows me to highlight Jessica Haener whose dancing captivated me the most.

Chelsea Hotel was an excellent show. It was very original but did not rely on its originality alone to make it special.

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