Assembly Hall

Crystal Pite & Jonathon Young / Kidd Pivot

Sadlers Well

Raise your hand if you’ve bickered in a book club. Or battled over your child’s nativity play with the oafish costume designer. Or snarked over the coffee cooler in an alcohol/drug or cross-stitcher’s anonymous group. These bubbles of society within a society are common, but rarely fodder for experimental fusion dance-theatre.

Hold my homemade gluten-free-brownie cry Crystal Pite and Jonathon Young. Now I fancy this couple…professionally. No, I don’t mean that I stalk them but that their creative partnership has renewed my love of art and also ignited a new ardour for dance in the as-of-yet untouched heart of my plus one (we’ll talk more about that later). Young a renowned Canadian theatre maker/writer and Pite founder of Kidd Pivot and rightfully lorded to the stars choreographer together make sweet, shuntering magic. Having raved about the bureaucratically based Revisor in 2020, and pealing my beady eyes regularly for Betroffenheit, Parade and The Statement, they’re other joint ventures. Very much like Pringles, or crack cocaine, once you’ve popped you can’t stop.

Their combined interest in the systems that underpin this little life of ours erupts in hilarious self-awareness in Assembly Hall. Leading us back to my previous statements regarding groups. For an odd period of my life, I was part of three book clubs, THREE, with a full-time job and boyfriend. This drive for connection, especially in a ruthlessly individual world unfolds in the annual meeting of an order of Medieval re-enactors. The chats over coffee, the dwindling attendance, budget and mounting debt. However, things don’t stay within the blissfully mundane for long.

With theatrical magicians like these, the most ordinary becomes extra. Young’s dynamic script and direction and their “physical lip-syncing” build a map or score of dialogue. Laced by eight voice actors (Young being one) which the corresponding feverish dancers of Kidd Pivot use as their character and movement stimulus. Like watching someone on ketamine (if you’ve ever been so lucky) trying to pretend to be sober, but very fast, this cartoon physicality then slips into acrobatic and liquid balletic movements. A fluttering of insect wing-like fingers, then snapping back into the world of almost naturalistic movements as they vote on the disillusionment of The Order.

This pioneering style avoids a lot of the problems of silent “dancing talking” that irks me no end but allows for the details and layered narrative that is sometimes out of dance’s grip. There’s no, “I think it was about love” in a Pite & Young show but a clear exploration of a specific net of human values. In this case, the wonderful world of Live Action Role Play (LARP for those of you in the know).

Leading me again oh so smugly onto another important point. I had the honour of bringing a close friend to her first ballet. Both of us were blessed enough that her visit coincided with Assembly Hall. Avoiding almost all of the ponderous seriousness of lyrical dance, and without the tights, short shorts and aching stuffiness of some classical ballet. This work is by no means a beginner’s guide but is appealing to anyone interested in movement and its ability to hint at something deeper.

The eight performers start in Nancy Bryant’s civilian clothes, and then the pealing reality of the Order’s hall unfolds into a world of knights, gloomy forests, witches and a guy called Dave. Flashing suits of armour, doppel and even acht-gänger’s pop up like poison mushrooms, and the line between reenactment and enactment is less blurred and more slashed in two with a thwonking great sword.

Eight clones of Dave (as if the world needed more) our reluctant Galahad, helmet-clad shudder on the floor, wrists at right angles, shaking in almost epileptic tightness. Battle scenes rage to Tchaikovsky’s – Piano Concerto 1 (B Flat Minor) but are shunted to and fro for the best optics. A tulle-smothered damsel/witch creeps behind doors flicking her flowing river of hair over pointed pale shoulders in a parody of every Arthurian female. The fun jousting is none-stop, Dave’s Jim Cary-like VoiceOver and Young’s according characterisation, and the endless squabbling of The Order as a whole. This is by far their most playful piece and again such a treat to tilt your head back and full-blown cackle at a supposedly refined evening at the ballet.

Gregory Lau (Dave number one) with his clumsy, and ungainly movements and Renée Sigouin’s sinister fair maiden steal the show. Although each member of The Order overawes their solos, vaguely branching out from the fractured tale of medieval glory and modern banality. Capturing the very human need to collect, even if not very cohesively. The layers of image and thematic reference back up, but an experience that could be over-intellectual is a pleasure beyond words. So I’ll stop trying to limit it with them. Pite and Young, let me move into Kidd Pivot’s studio in Vancouver? I will stay in the corner, be very quiet and just sob in appreciation occasionally, I promise.

You can catch this show (if you’re quick) until the 23rd of March if you click here!