by Rachel Beaumont

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A difference of opinion: Medusa at Sadler’s Wells

Jasmin Vardimon Company
Sadler’s Wells
First Circle M32, £12, upgraded to E28
24 October 2018
SW page

There were a few moments in the evening where I wondered if I should have given myself more to go on than the two names of Medusa and Jasmin Vardimon. The series of vignettes that makes up Medusa is always superbly imaginative, always visually striking, always astonishingly danced, always elegantly attuned to the eclectic music selection. But while I could work out the medusa connection for a lot of the sketches – from wibbly wobbly jellyfish people to a furious dominatrix to a head made of rope to a head made of hands to a head made of hair to a helpful Sartre name-drop – others left me entertained but perplexed. As a result the ending had to me an arbitrary nature, leaving the feeling that Vardimon was more interested in firing in all directions rather than keeping a steady hand on the tiller, a lack of coherence that held me back from adoration.

I needed to be held because the invention on display in each episode amounts to a feast for the senses, although that feast is part of the problem. Vardimon’s eight dancers hold a breathtaking eloquence in their bodies, every articulation instantaneously establishing purpose, atmosphere and character, the group seemingly perfectly in synch with each other. They’re both aided and encumbered by myriads of whacky props, all clever (with the exception of the boat at the back with the big torch on it, which I just don’t get), many delightful for the images they create – my favourite has to be the floppy flaccid genitalian duct heads – but all used in such rapid succession that I a) felt for the dancers and stage team and b) worried that such a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it approach doesn’t favour a loose-hanging work so explicitly themed.

My wish is that Vardimon had brought the same discipline to the ideas on offer that the dancers do to their work; that the vignettes were selected not only for their imagination but also for their pertinence to the story she wants to tell. When that story dwells on objectification, on witless arrogance, on self-entitled cruelty, on rape, I want discipline. But that’s obviously not what Vardimon wants. She wants creativity, exploration, vibrancy, fun, flourish. And while that doesn’t give me the coherence I want, it does give me a thrilling ride.

26 Oct 2018, 4:16 p.m.

David P

While I think you have focussed on the interesting questions about purpose and coherence of the work, I think you've maybe left the physicality and achievement of the dancers a bit in the shade by omission. Their dancing was so energetic and relentless, a highlight being the swirly shiny scythe of doom in the sadistic skipping game, and yet generally so precise, that they deserve a lot of credit for it.

Also: "...firing in all directions rather than keeping a steady hand on the tiller..." I didn't know you used a tiller to control a machine gun :-P

26 Oct 2018, 5:35 p.m.


You’re right – probably my dominant response to the piece was overwhelming admiration for the dancers, but the review itself went down a bit of a rabbit hole (a mixed-metaphor-y rabbit hole).

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