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Motionhouse's Charge sends emotions soaring

Features | Published:

YOU may remember, back in the 1990s, a popular BBC television show called ‘How do they do that?’ It explored feats of engineering, collective organisation and special effects.

Well, that show – or more pertinently, that question – would have been uppermost in the minds of everyone lucky enough to be at the Jersey Opera House on Thursday evening.

That’s because Charge, the third instalment of Motionhouse dance company’s performance trilogy, bewitches and baffles in equal measure.

It will bewitch you because, like the first two parts in Motionhouse director Kevin Finnan’s earth trilogy – Scattered and Broken – the six performers’ mesmeric movements dovetail gloriously and unpredictably with the ingenious set design.

It will baffle you, as you will constantly wonder how the three men and three women are able to remember every part of the immensely complex choreography during 80 breathless minutes – and how they are able to interact so fluidly with the set. They slide into, spring out of and hang from almost every part of the enormous backing screen, which doubles as a giant interactive canvas for state-of-the-art digital projection imagery.

Finnan, who directed the London 2012 Paralympic opening ceremony, worked with Oxford University professor Frances Ashcroft and her research team to delve into the role of electricity in the human body, in producing this show.

And the chemistry between the performers is certainly electrifying, as processes such as cell division and organic composition are animated not just on the screen, but also by the performer’s hyperactive interactions with each other.

It is hard to pick out any one highlight from a show that is enthralling throughout, but the section in which the performers bounce from one foot to the other as if bolts of electricity are coursing through their veins – while images of human hearts are projected onto their chests – is particularly compelling.

The energy and sheer strength of the performers is something to behold too, as they execute seemingly impossible catches, precarious backflips and heart-stopping leaps every few seconds. In many ways they are theatre’s version of the Red Arrows, such is their jaw-dropping ability to stay in sync with one another’s movements while performing dozens of daring acrobatic dives and human barrel rolls.

Sometimes trilogies can go badly wrong, whether they are theatre productions or film epics – remember the Godfather Part III? Fortunately, this final part of Finnan’s earth trilogy is a triumph. The concept may be grounded in science, but the spectacle sends your emotions soaring. Motionhouse’s next visit to Jersey can’t come soon enough.

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