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Review: ANY ATTEMPT WILL END IN CRUSHED BODIES AND SHATTERED BONES, Sadler's Wells

Shock and awe awaits those who see this show.

Review: ANY ATTEMPT WILL END IN CRUSHED BODIES AND SHATTERED BONES, Sadler's Wells

Review: ANY ATTEMPT WILL END IN CRUSHED BODIES AND SHATTERED BONES, Sadler's Wells

any attempt will end in crushed bodies and shattered bones is most definitely not for the faint-hearted. For his latest production at Sadler's Wells, Flemish choreographer Jan Martens has created in ways which will shock any sane person to their core a highly engaging and provocative piece of political theatre which examines what we mean by community and how society fights against oppression, inequality, and the climate crisis.

Martens has form when it comes to eye-grabbing and mindboggling titles: his first production in 2010, about young women in a society dominated by social networks, was called I Can Ride A Horse Whilst Juggling So Marry Me. In any attempt..., he has created his grandest work yet in collaboration with the Dance On Ensemble, a seventeen-strong corps of dancers aged between 17 and 70 with significant differences between them in terms of track record and technical background.

In Martens' eyes, a community is a collection of individuals who gather as one or many groups around a common need, want or goal. He explores this concept in a number of ways, both through movement and words. Each of the dancers is dressed in a shade of grey but in different outfits, no two alike. They rarely touch and instead stand apart expressing their own individuality through different displays of physicality. In some of the scenes, the youngest whirl around in their own space, some repeat movements typical of shelf-fillers, labourers or other blue-collar workers while the eldest member of the troupe moves her straight arms around in a stilted circular motion mimicking a factory clock. All this is accompanied by the highly-charged Concerto pour Clavecin et Cordes Op 40 which for all the world sounds like a harpsichord doing battle with a string quartet.

Martens bookends the episodes of wild movement with a more solemn central section played out either in total silence or accompanied by two very different spoken word scenes. The first of these scenes is a gobsmacking string of demands made from the floor which would outrage even the most politically extreme person watching. It starts innocently enough ("What we don't want is fact, what we want is repetition") before going on to say "we want people we call foreign to feel foreign", "we want outrage...destruction", "we need judges to be called enemies of the people", "we need words to mean what we say they mean" , "we want people left behind...panic...gunships to stop migrants...and all that patriotic stuff" and "anti-semite is good, nazi is great and paedo will really do it".

Martens buttresses this vitriol with the more soothing People's Faces by Kae Tempest, a spoken-word piece which opens with "It's coming to pass/My country's coming apart/The whole thing's becoming/Such a bumbling farce" but his foot isn't off the gas pedal yet; later he delivers the verbal coup de grâce, projecting against a backscreen a jaw-dropping litany of illiterate hateful rape and death threats containing some of the most vile misogynist, racist, Islamophobic, homophobic and transphobic language imaginable. The physical movement is this middle section is less individual and sees the dancers marching around the stage either in unison or in two or more smaller groups. There's little in the way of music, just the thud-thud-thud of bare feet rhythmically hitting the floor as the ensemble explore the sparse stage.

The violent verbiage is not the only theatrical feature of any attempt.... Close to the end, Martens pulls off a visual switch, right in front of our eyes flicking instantly the colour palette of the costumes from shades of grey to deep reds. Intelligent touches like this mean that, although the 90-minute no-interval show occasionally falters in pacing, it is never boring, never rushed and never reveals its next card until it is played.

any attempt will end in crushed bodies and shattered bones is on tour.

Photo Credit: Phile Deprez2



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