HOME Theatre, Manchester; Friday 22nd November, 2019
Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.”
– Carl Jung
The opening scenes of Company Chameleon’s ambitious new work The Shadow are a tense and unsettling experience. A man sits on a chair, thinking, pondering. He is joined by a troupe of energetic dancers – everyone is so casually dressed, as if they’re just going about their daily business.
But they are not alone, emerging suddenly from the darkness are six sinister figures, dressed in black from head to toe, including a full, black head mask. The initial, visual impact is one of horror, the sombre violin composition adding even more nervous energy and uncomfortable tension.
It takes several minutes to settle the nerves and gradually deduce that the menacing sextet are menacing only in visual appearance. These are The Shadows, one to accompany each of the real-world dancers.
At first they do as shadows do: they accompany, they are compliant, they follow and thus they are acceptable, safe, and predictable.
But very quickly The Shadows develop a will of their own. As the physical movement begins to increase in pace and complexity they show signs of divergence, of disobedience – eventually so free and unrestricted are these Shadows that they chose to just disappear completely off stage, only returning when they feel like it.
Company Chameleon have created a show that explores the disconnection between the real-world self and the Shadow: what can you do and what would you do if you could escape your unconscious self, does that mean you’re actually escaping your conscious limits and restraints?
Throughout the show the combination of visual, auditory and physical performance yields a sinister mood. The stage is always dark which creates a sense of fear and hesitation, but as the nature of The Shadows becomes clearer they lose their sinister edge and become almost amusing. They become playful characters, almost like little pets running around, not necessarily doing what they’re supposed to do or what they’re being told to do but still providing amusing entertainment nevertheless.
The technical aspects of this show are mesmerising: beautiful spotlighting effects that work brilliantly well on what is mostly a completely black stage; also the sound composition is excellent, a heady mixture of folky ambience that serves to elongate and stretch the moods. The dance routines are brilliantly performed, most impressive are the numerous duets where various pairs of dancers contort, cavort and fling each other around as if they have fused into one conjoined being.
The Shadow is described by Company Chameleon as a journey to the end of the world. It’s not clear that a theme of apocalyptic finality is the driving force behind this show; far stronger and clearer are the obvious depictions of rivalry, jealousy, and humiliation – a love story seems to be playing out on stage and an uncoupling of the conscious from the unconscious seems to be the stronger definition of what is presented.
But explanatory assertions will always be open to interpretation. Regardless of what it all means, The Shadow is still a genuinely impressive hour of physical art delivered in the form of world-class contemporary dance.
Photography: Joel Chester Fildes
|Visual pleasure||Outstanding lighting work on a stage that was mainly in darkness. The all-black spectacle presented by the Shadows seemed to exude a strange allure – simultaneously sinister as well as compelling to watch and follow.||4|
|Auditory pleasure||Beautifully atmospheric composition work encompassing earthy, folk styles with higher tempo rhythmic pieces to drove the on-stage movements. The auditory flow was rather disappointingly broken (repeatedly) by the ~10-second-long moments of silence between tracks, should really have been mixed into a single, flowing piece.||4|
|Architecture & Theme||Flowed reasonably well, each individual piece lasting long enough to allow the mind to wander and form a coherent mood pattern.||4|
|Artistic delivery||Outstanding physical artistry from all six of the main performers, and their shadowy counterparts. Individual performances were excellent but the best dancing was done in the various pairings that formed during the piece.||5|
|Overall impact||A very strong work of contemporary dance with only minor issues of auditory flow and connecting of separate dance movements.||4|
|0||Detrimental – This aspect of the performance was so bad that it made the overall experience worse|
|1||Weak – This aspect of the performance was poor|
|2||Adequate – This aspect of the performance was perfectly acceptable, though nothing special|
|3||Good – This aspect of the performance was above average, it pleased in some way|
|4||Excellent – This aspect of the performance was much better than normal, it was impressive|
|5||Awe-inspiring – This aspect of the performance was exceptional, new boundaries were pushed.|