featured photo
The Kitchen
Brought to you by
the New York manufacturer of fine dance apparel for women and girls. Click here to see a sample of our products and a list of web sites for purchasing.
With Body Wrappers it's always
performance at its best.

More Flash Reviews
Go Home

Flash Review, 5-12: Boys will be Homo-erotic
Slip Slidin' Away with Earthfall

By Josephine Leask
Copyright 2006 Josephine Leask

LONDON -- As I enter the normally hot theater at the Place on a warm evening (this past Wednesday), the sound of dripping water and a pleasant coolness emanates from the stage situated below the audience, on which has been built a huge water installation for the Welsh company Earthfall's very aquatic production "At Swim, Two Boys." It consists of a large wall of corrugated iron, down which water cascades onto a smaller surface, essentially a watery, half-foot deep paddling pool of a small stage installed on the larger stage. An impressive multipurpose structure, the wall also serves as a film screen and a climbing frame for the dancers.

"At Swim, Two Boys" looks like it's going to be a slick piece of dance theater; an impressive sound score played by two live musicians, Roger Mills and Frank Naughton, adrenalin pumping and athletically virtuosic choreography performed by outstanding dancers, Terry Michael and Stuart Bowden, and a strong visual setting are strong, striking components in the work. The piece is loosely based on Jamie O'Neill's novel, "At Swim, Two Boys," which concerns the growing love between two teenage boys, set against the backdrop of the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland -- in the news again this year on its 80th anniversary -- and the developing war in Europe. The Easter Rising, a revolt conducted by a few Republicans and Sinn Fein partisans against British rule, resulted in a ridiculous loss of life, as did the ensuing first World War. Rather than pursue overtly political themes, this dance piece aims to expose the covert ramifications of love between two opposing factions, in this case the love between a Catholic and a Protestant. While the Easter Rising and the war are suggested by some film footage of both and the odd bit of spoken text in the sound track, what is really explored is the relationship between the boys, much of which happens on their swimming adventures on the Irish coast.

And boy, is the result one huge wet homo-erotic experience! Once this is established, none of the other thematic strands are really pursued in any detail. It is a feast for gay male eyes: two boys at their sexual peak, water, dripping clinging clothes, testosterone fueled movements, guns, urgent thrusting body contact, and loud, pounding thrash music.

Although some of the potentially more interesting material is not explored, the performers nevertheless are amazing to watch on their watery stage. All their movements -- rolling, sliding, jumping, lifts -- are conducted in about a foot of water, so they have the added weight and discomfort of drenched clothes and shoes, plus a nerve-rackingly slippery surface to negotiate. They are both so on top of the physically demanding, risk-taking choreography, that it makes you forget how difficult it must be to perform in water.

It is clever, too, how the performers manage to translate through dynamics and gesture the explosive hormones of teenage boys, the tentativeness, the holding back and then the clumsy letting go, as they skillfully develop their relationship and act out their nervous mutual passions. While there is very little stillness within the work, there are subtler, more sensitive moments, including a section in which the dancers strip down to underpants to suggest a swimming adventure, after which they sit peacefully beside each other and reflectively look out to sea. This is one of the more touching and meaningful breaks, as afterwards the piece returns to thrash and crash and a rather cliched finale, in which the boy turned soldier is shot by his Catholic lover.

I can understand why "At Swim, Two Boys" is an award-winning physical theater piece as it is arresting and impact making, but I feel that the potential within the work is just not milked and various themes are not explored with enough integrity and texture. While the movement is sensational, we have seen it all before in the early work of DV8 Physical Theatre and in the 'Euro crash' of Belgian choreographer Wim Vandekeybus.


More Flash Reviews
Go Home