I remember fondly one of the very last outings I went on before the world was turned upside down: Saturday 7 March 2020, closing night of Be More Chillat the Annex Theatre, University of Southampton.
It’s only about six weeks ago, but it feels like at least a year has passed. Therefore, I couldn’t possibly call this a review because I couldn’t be objective (can anyone ever be, really?) – that night is already rose-tinted with nostalgia. So I would like to offer my apologies for the delay, Showstoppers – I got majorly distracted, I hope you understand… but I’m here now, ready to sing (not half as well as you) your praises.
To our shame and huge excitement and curiosity, the opening night of ZoieLogic Dance Theatre’s Heist was the first time either of us had seen a dance-only production. And on top of that, whilst between us we have a few years’ worth of mostly amateur dance experience, we know nothing about contemporary dancing, which was the show’s predominant style. In a nutshell, we went to the opening night of this show with absolutely no expectations and completely ready to see contemporary dance with fresh eyes.
And that is
exactly what happened. As ZoieLogic Dance Theatre Artistic Director Zoie
Golding expertly put it (she created the show after all), Heist mixes “the adventure of Mission
Impossible, the gaming of Crystal
Maze, and a little bit of the heart of The
Goonies” – an emotionally dynamic, cleverly woven, action-packed show
bursting with the most graceful moves which kept us on the edge of our seats
One of the most
striking aspects of Heist was in the
way it established the tone so promptly and accurately from the very first minute
with the help of soundtrack and a villain with robotic moves, deeply unsettling
facial expressions and Matrix-like costume. We like to think that we don’t get
scared easily, but we definitely found ourselves huddling close into each other
as the villain slowly approached our end of the stage. This almost instant
characterization was also instilled into the four ‘good’ guys – despite there
being absolutely no words spoken for the entire duration of the show, we
quickly got a real sense of the dynamic between the characters in the first
act, as their movements started to organize themselves into patterns and motifs
to show their quirks and mannerisms, their teamwork and their willingness to do
whatever it takes to escape the prison.
storyline was quite minimalistic. Whilst the general plotlines were conveyed by
the characters’ interaction with the set, the soundtrack and the dancers’
movements and facial expressions, the lack of words brought with itself a lack
of specificity which Heist turned on
its head into a vagueness encouraging audience engagement. We did not know
exactly why the four men were imprisoned, or what they tried to set free at the
end of it, but when we talked about it after coming out of the show we both
thought it had something to do with identity. Whether or not that’s what it
actually was about is a different question.
The great thing
about the show is that none of this guesswork actually matters: you don’t get
brownie points for identifying one specific metaphor the author wanted to
convey. The focus was simply on how the incredibly skilful and graceful
movements affected the audience’s emotions (and trust us, they did). The plot
was merely shaped by some classic heist film tropes (e.g. the chase scene), and
the fantastically adaptable set which enhanced the experience of the show by
being as fluid as the dancers’ movements; the essence was all in the
relationship between movements and emotion. As the dancers were climbing the
prison’s walls showing some real parkour skills, we waited anxiously for them
to fall. As they supported each other through their feeblest sequences of
choreography we felt feeble with them. As they were running from the villain
through the set which became a maze we were rooting for them to get away.
For us, that was
the essence of Heist. It did not
matter that we knew close to nothing about contemporary dance. It only mattered
that we opened our eyes and hearts to see and feel this show, and we left NST
City all the richer for it.
MA English Literary Studies student Thea Hartman talks about her passion for escapism, textual analysis, her experience of the Southampton art scene, and what plans she has for her time as an Arts Ambassador!
This is going to sound ridiculously cliché, so brace yourselves, because I really don’t know how else to say it: yes, I have loved art in all its forms for as long as I can remember. The philosophy behind this love is simple: if you’re looking to escape the real world for a bit – and I honestly bet you do – there is no better way to spend those rare spare hours than with a film, some music, a trip to the theatre, a gig, or many a good book.
far as that goes, I am an expert fugitive. My Mum taught me how to read early
because I would always ask her to read me one more story and she couldn’t catch
her breath. And that hasn’t really changed (well, I did learn to read, but you
get the idea) – ‘one more story’ became a BA English degree, and then an MA
English Literary Studies degree, with a focus on twentieth century literature.
Turning a text on all its facets, understanding it in its present and in our
own – to me, there’s nothing quite like it, even if it does sometimes push my
limits so much that I can’t touch a book for months… Luckily, there are other ways
to keep escaping.
because we’re in Southampton, we have loads of them right on our doorstep! I
started discovering the Southampton arts scene due to The Edge, the University’s student entertainment magazine, which
sends writers to a wide range of theatre shows and concerts (even after over
three years of writing for it I’d probably have a hard time naming all the
music venues in Southampton…), but it wasn’t until my summer internship with ‘a
space’ arts that I had the chance to get to know the arts community in
Southampton and learn just how complex and welcoming it is!
not an artist, so I’m not a stranger to thoughts like “I’m not artsy enough to
go there,” or “I don’t belong there” – but I realised I couldn’t be more wrong.
And that’s what I’m most excited about doing as an Arts Ambassador – helping to
spread the word not only about what the arts scene in Southampton has to offer
generally, but also about what it has to offer to those who think like I used
to. I’ll be found mostly on this blog and on social media, trying to put all
these feelings into words as I explore Southampton’s art scene with Molly and
Kate this semester – I hope you join us on this journey!
Our brilliant new Arts Ambassadors Thea Hartman, Molly Ellis and Kate Briggs-Price have produced a slicker-than-your-average video introducing themselves to Southampton, Winchester and the world! Stay tuned for more from this trio over the coming weeks, starting with introductory blogs from each.