Dance to a new tune of revolution

1st July 2005 at 01:00
Globaleyes Chicken Shed Theatre Company Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh until July 2 tel 0131 248 4848 www.chickenshed.org.uk

A gitprop theatre has come a long way since the socialist pioneers of the 1920s acted out their tableaux on the backs of lorries bedecked with banners and slogans and addressed audiences with megaphones, to ensure they got the point of the agitation and propaganda.

However, the basic principles remain the same, as Chicken Shed Theatre's new multi-media production demonstrates.

Globaleyes sets out to address the state of our planet at the dawn of a new century, using dance and movement to warn us of the effects of globalisation, exploitation, war and greed on humanity and the environment.

This is an ambitious and worthy cause and it is reflected in a production which is both ambitious and worthy.

In terms of dance and movement, the show is blessedly free of the body-beautiful narcissism which sedates so much dance theatre in Britain.

This you would expect from an inclusive company such as Chicken Shed Theatre, which includes among its young performers some members with disabilities; but it is also the focus of the performers, who are intent on evoking the crises which face humanity, warning of growing dangers and inspiring us to act now, that shifts their allegorical sequences to another plane.

There are two striking sequences which alone make the show worthwhile. In one, pairs of performers join to become crab-like creatures suffering the agonies and death of pollution; in the other, a crowded train is transformed, almost, into a Holocaust cattle truck, though its impact is rather spoiled by that great theatrical cheat, strobe lighting.

The sheer enjoyment of the performers is almost tangible and they communicate energy and commitment, though this is sometimes over-egged by the direction to the point of earnestness. There are also points in both the movement and music where our heart strings are being unashamedly plucked and audiences may feel they are being patronised by the style and content of the production.

The modern-day banners on this multi-media lorry consist of still and moving images, sometimes beautiful, sometimes graphic and sometimes distracting from the performance.

The slogans, provided by dot matrix and back projection, include quotes from Martin Luther King and Anita Roddick (the show's main sponsor).

The soundtrack is nothing if not eclectic, sometimes haunting and lyrical, other times thumping the foundations of the old theatre.

And in case we have not got the points being made by dance, movement, music, images, quotes and occasional song and speech, we also get the contemporary megaphone, amplified scratches and snatches of recorded news items about the state of the world and Robert Kennedy's speech announcing the assassination of Martin Luther King.

Globaleyes is an interesting, colourful and vibrant hotch-potch which does not really achieve the unity of vision it claims. It is also too long, teetering on self-indulgence.

The production values are definitely high, perhaps too high. When you leave the theatre, despite (or because of) all the high-tech agitprop, it is not necessarily the nature of contemporary civilisation and what we should do about it that is the message you remember. It is the bombarding nature of the show itself which you cannot escape. The medium, to adapt Marshall McLuhan, has become the message.

Raymond Ross

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