Magazine article The Spectator

Hectic Romp

Magazine article The Spectator

Hectic Romp

Article excerpt

The Bull Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre, Barbican Michael Keegan-Dolan is to dance-theatre what radical and elusive Banksy is to the visual arts. Indeed, these two acclaimed bad boys of modernday culture have a great deal in common; both derive their art from cruel satire of the everyday, which they portray with similar irreverent and shock-provoking strokes, in spite of their different means of expression. Both indulge in challenging the tenets of existing culture by tackling -- some would say 'desecrating' -- revered monoliths of the art world. And, in formulating their scorching critiques of the surrounding reality, they both resort to a kaleidoscopic pastiche which defies any classification.

Banksy's live rats crawling around the improvised gallery in Westbourne Grove and his more recent non-Christmassy Santa's Ghetto in Oxford Street have had the same impact as Keegan-Dolan's raunchy revisionist reading of the romantic ballet classic Giselle, or his unique take on Romeo and Juliet in the recently acclaimed The Flowerbed. The works of Keegan-Dolan draw upon personal, at times even autobiographical, issues, as demonstrated by the recurring vitriolic attack on Irish culture and society, a constant of his performances.

Based on ancient Irish lore, The Bull is the latest of his creations and the second in what the Irish performance-maker refers to as the 'Midlands Trilogy', a project that focuses on the culture of that specific region. However, like other admirers of the rebellious choreographer, this time I did not experience the rollercoaster of emotions and reactions I had previously ridden with his creations.

Yet all the expected ingredients are there.

In line with the creative canons first seen in Giselle, the first in the 'Midlands Trilogy', The Bull is a play in which movement and dance integrate and contrast with long stretches of acting. The stage is covered with peat, and the performing space is littered with objects of different natures, shapes and forms, including tools, musical instruments and a half-buried coffin. The 12th-century story of the whimsical and greedy Queen Maeve, turned here into a sexually insatiable rich bitch who owns, among a million other things, an Irish dancing company, is both acted and narrated. …

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