A few hours before the start of the New Year, I found myself alone in a dark room in Battersea Arts Centre with two DJs, Will Dickie and Jeremiah Isaacs. The encounter was intimate, revealing and brief. Twenty minute long The Resolution Studio recorded individual participants’ resolutions for 2016, created a signature dance move, and the two djs and their audience of one had a quick groove session before rejoining the venue’s party. Though I felt self conscious at being the sole centre of these two artists’ attention, it was an event that stuck with me the past few months.
When I received an invitation to Camden People’s Theatre festival Sprint 2016 closing show, Will Dickie’s latest work Rave Space, I jumped at the opportunity to experience more of his work. With The Resolution Studio captivating me with Dickie’s charisma and sensuality for such a short time, I couldn’t resist the offer of an hour-long rave and text hybrid piece in the basement of CPT. I left confused and disappointed, though. There are definitely some wonderful aspects of Rave Space. Interaction, dance and music meld to make a gig theatre piece with some audience autonomy, but with an actual runtime closer to 90 minutes and lengthy, muddled sequences of text and contemporary dance that only tenuously fit together (if at all), this new piece is much in need of further development.
One-by-one entry, whilst it adds atmosphere and interaction, takes a long time as we each have to ID ourselves and receive a hand stamp. Once we’re in, we can peruse the tiny stations with LED signs, turntables, and random objects assembled like shrines in the corners of the room. Some people are given laser pointers. It’s mysterious, cryptic and exciting, though there isn’t much to actually do or engage with. People are chatting, performers/stewards in hi-vis pepper the space and it feels like a gig is about to start rather than a theatre piece. There are no chairs, and it’s late. The lengthy build-up creates buzz and excitement, but what follows is an anticlimax.
When the music starts, spinning from a pentagonal structure in the middle of the space, a few people get really into it, most others bob heads, some don’t join in at all. That’s ok because there’s no judgement, but watching other people have a great time can be dull. Spoken text over a mic and pre-recorded monologues eventually kick in, but there is a detachment from the music, even though the content is often about music or rave culture. There’s no through-line or any justification for pairing that particular music with those text extracts. Comparing rave culture with the experience of going to church is the most interesting proposal, but it is not investigated further. Also disconnected from any of the topics discussed in the sections of text are sequences of contemporary dance in various styles, including what looks like Butoh. Though a display of adept, emotive physicality akin to a Rodin statue coming to life, these are also detached from everything that has occurred so far.
Though the concept of creating a piece that incorporates rave culture with performance is an excellent one, Will Dickie’s execution leaves much to be desired. There is no denying his charisma and talent, but Rave Space needs to consider its aims and its audience as it grows.
Rave Space was a one-off event at Sprint 2016.
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