Nigel Charnock, Heroine

Review in Issue 8-4 | Winter 1996

Much has been made of Billie Holiday’s depraved life, it’s almost impossible to treat her music on its own terms. There’s the legendary childhood deprivation, the excessive lifestyle, the drugs, the booze, the depressions and the institutions. But Billie Holiday was far more complex than this limited image. Heroine is a love poem to the total Billie Holiday. Set in a dingy nightclub – complete with the smell of hash and fags, and spilt glasses of wine – the show charted her life and decline. Many of Charnock’s trademark techniques are there – the chat, the forays into the audience, the flailing limbs. But this was primarily a work of pure dance. It was also a maturer, quieter piece than his other solo performances; Charnock usually crams every minute of his shows with revelatory banter and exhausting physicality that usually reveal very little. This show sat back slightly and was more effective. Time was given over to the music and space for the individuality of the dancers. Consequently there was greater emotional depth and humanness in the work. The show reached the sublime in the final quarter. As the mood changed to excessiveness and vulnerability, five crumpled and naked bodies sat and watched a film of the Lady herself singing the ultimate blues – Strange Fruit: a grim allegory of racial persecution.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Festival
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Oct 1996

This article in the magazine

TT 8-4
Issue 8-4
p. 19