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By Henrietta Heath
Thursday, June 9, 2011
It’s a choreographed riot as naked dancers climb through the audience at Sadler’s Wells in UN PEU DE TENDRESSE BORDEL DE MERDE!
The enfant terrible of Canadian dance, Dave St-Pierre, comes to Sadler’s Wells with Un Peu De Tendresse Bordel De Merde! (A Little Tenderness For Crying Out Loud!).
The 20 dancers perform naked for the majority of piece and using a cynical, masochistic narrator as the framing device, St Pierre explores the themes of brutality and intimacy between the genders.
Women castigate themselves whilst trying to gain male approval, and men are portrayed as emotionally and intellectually under-developed. In the most disturbing section of the evening, after a puerile and very funny display of clowning, the men line up along the forestage and repeatedly strike themselves in the face, shouting “frappe moi” (hit me), their voices steadily turning from child to eunuch to adult male. They are literally forcing themselves to grow up. And like the piece as a whole, there are no punches pulled here.
This is a choreographed riot - an exercise in transgression which tests the borders of what is acceptable in theatre and in life. But it is brave, and speaks clearly to its audience about human relationships and the need for a little tenderness to set us apart from animals.
It is intelligent and moving, despite its baser moments. The many walk-outs - shocked no doubt by the anarchic cast climbing naked through the auditorium - were cheerfully sent on their way by the narrator as she yelled “You will miss the best bit!” One dancer took my sunglasses off my head and balanced them on his scrotum... But don’t follow the nay-sayers, stay till the end and your courage will be rewarded.
* Performed at Sadler’s Wells in Rosebery Avenue, EC1, from June 2-4.