Vincent Dance Theatre, Punch Drunk

Review in Issue 17-2 | Summer 2005

Punch Drunk takes the theme of ‘being a dancer’ as its starting point, setting that investigation into the context of a burlesque variety show. The cast of six present a sequence of set pieces in which the characters they represent push themselves to the limits. We open with a burlesque star making an entrance – then again, then again. It is the first of many examples where in parodying something, the performance becomes the thing itself. Yes, the company say, that is the point – but it is nevertheless tedious to watch. And this exact postmodern pastiche of entrances/exits has been used countless times before – by Liz Aggiss and Lea Anderson for example, and indeed by the curtain-call daddy of them all, Lyndsey Kemp, parodying himself. The Apache dance of passion and punches says nothing new in its equation of onstage-offstage violence and the Red Shoes dance until-you-drop sequences are entertaining but nothing more. If the intent had been to just present a series of well-executed cabaret dance sequences, then this show would be a success. But the feeling that the production was striving for something else and not succeeding was frustrating to witness. The performers are all very watchable and talented, but stuck on stage with nothing much to say. Everything looks really good – the dancers, the costumes, the set – but it all feels ultimately pretty vacant. Sheffield-based Vincent Dance probably don’t want parallels drawn with their associates (Punch Drunk is designed by Forced Entertainment’s Richard Lowden) but reflecting on the power of such shows as Forced’s First Night, which also referenced/parodied Variety, it is hard not to cite them as an example of how material of this sort can be properly digested into something with a real theatrical purpose.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Feb 2005

This article in the magazine

Issue 17-2
p. 31