The Featherstonehaughs, Draws on the Sketch Books of Egon Schiele

Review in Issue 10-1 | Spring 1998

There’s nothing very funny about Egon Schiele. He died aged 28 in 1918, leaving a legacy of introspective portraits which ooze sexual anxiety and self-doubt. Unlikely inspiration indeed for Lea Anderson’s quirky all-male dance troupe, known for their witty and playful style.

Anderson’s attempt to flesh out images from Schiele’s sketch books is a neat conceit. The dancers strike familiar poses from the paintings: jagged-limbed and awkward, their mouths are perpetually open in a silent scream. The mechanical choreography imitates the rigidity and discomfort of the artist’s body in the self-portraits, but lacks the fluid and curvaceous lines which characterise many of the more languid paintings. Anderson captures plenty of Schiele’s angst but fails to convey any of the sexual turmoil communicated in the artist’s work. Furthermore, for an artist whose sitters were predominantly female, it is questionable whether this is really suitable material for an all-male troupe in the first place.

Sandy Powell tries to evoke the colour and style of the paintings in the costumes, but the acrid chemical shades she uses are neither pleasing on the eye nor sympathetic to Schiele’s palette. The expressionistic make-up, robotic choreography, stark set and furious electro thud of Drostan Madden’s score could have been made for an early Kraftwerk video. The only moment of true drama occurs midway into the show when the music suddenly stops and the dancers stand poised in suspended animation for an agonisingly long time. They stare indolently into the auditorium and for a moment truly become the passive subjects of both Schiele’s and Lea Anderson’s art.

Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Feb 1998

This article in the magazine

Issue 10-1
p. 23