Written for Total Theatre
Five athletic dancers scuttle and shift across a grey stage. Ticks and jerks punctuate their otherwise fluid movement, hands caress feet and bodies block one another. In Jean Abreu’s vision of prison an incarcerated man is akin to a butterfly pinned in a display box.
Inside is inspired by the idea that a society’s jails are a signifier of the society itself. Abreu’s diaphanous piece is a blurred reaction to questions of oppression, human rights and responsibility. By shifting away from direct representation, his choreography ducks the reality of these ideas; instead it settles on a brooding Dolce & Gabbana style violence that is polished and ‘sexy’.
At one point technique and ideology come together for a fierce emotional punch. A man is tossed over two others’ shoulders and dropped on his neck, elegantly crumpling down into a ball; a simple but deeply skilful moment that speaks powerfully of an absence of respect for those incarcerated. But this synergy between technique and meaning is palpably lacking elsewhere.
Providing a backdrop of arty testosterone-filled rock the band 65daysofstatic thrash away in the background. Waves of sound roll onto the stage and a sequence of bombastic musical climaxes divides the piece up into compartments of movement with the same arbitrary divisiveness as cell walls. Guitar strings double as prison bars in Dan Jones’ minimal set that evokes a bleak Blade Runner aesthetic but none of the claustrophobic atmosphere of being locked up.
This is an impressively virile performance with some real flashes of class. But Inside is also an annoyingly romanticised and even occasionally grating exploration of something one feels Abreu knows very little about.