Review: La Ribot in Llamame Mariachi at Purcell Room, Southbank Centre

Performance: 26 November 2010
Reviewed by Lise Smith - Monday 29 November 2010

La Ribot, 'Llamame Mariachi'.

What does it mean to see or be seen? Since 1990, the Spanish choreographer Maria Ribot has been making multimedia works that question and blur the boundaries between theatre, dance and art. A playfully provocative trio in two parts, one filmed and one live, Llamame Mariachi (Call Me Mariachi) continues that tradition. Combining film, spoken text, objects and exaggerated naturalistic movement, the piece examines modes of visibility and ways of seeing.

The 17-minute long opening film takes us on a whirlwind tour of a decaying warehouse building in an unknown location, filled with photographs, pieces of text, televisions screening continental films from the 1970s and an assortment of other objects. Shot in one take by the same three dancers (Delphine Rosay, Marie-Caroline Hominal and La Ribot herself) who will later perform live, the film section is a highly structured and clever piece of choreography, forcing our gaze onto certain objects and images and visually echoing the soundscore at given moments.

The camera pans around the warehouse in time to the neo-Hispanic music composed for the film by musician atom*(TM), exploring the building’s contents and architectural features, guided by a pointing finger that seems to press forward from behind the camera. We see suggestions of bodies – turquoise-clad legs, running feet and that repeated pointing finger – but never the image of a complete physical form. The film implies an order of movement performed by the dancer-camerawomen as they travel around the warehouse, falling to the floor or spinning on a chair, but viewed only from the inside. The dancer’s-eye view adds interest to the film sequence, which is connected to the live section by the use of the same performers and several of the same objects on stage*

Unlike the fast-paced, lively opening film, the live section of Llamame Mariachi makes conspicuous use of decelerated movements, the dancers seating themselves at a table with leisurely deliberation. The three read from a series of texts, portentous claims about the nature of art and humanity that the performers then cast aside casually, pages fluttering as the books hit the stage. Delphine Rosay somehow manages to slip and fall twice, collapsing comically from her chair in slow motion. The deliberate slowness of the movements makes visible the sheer physical effort involved in moving, in resisting or giving into gravity.

The live section makes a virtue of sparsity, the performers moving agonisingly slowly through a sequence of very simple, pedestrian movements as they read from and then discard their books. Occasionally, the performers comments reflexively on the piece: “It’s going quite well,” says one. But other than the reading, book throwing and deliberately prosaic motions, very little actually happens in the piece.That which does happen is not only slow but strategically unsurprising – when Hominal pushes a cake from the table onto the floor, she takes several minutes to do so, leaving us in no doubt as to where the cake will end up. The resulting atmosphere of mundane predictability is both absurdly comic and, in its theatre context, oddly discomforting.

A genuinely interesting theatrical experiment, Llamame Mariachi succeeds in questioning and at times defying our expectations towards a piece of dance theatre. The minimal movements of the three dancers are made to appear effortful, in contrast to the more conventional dance aesthetic of virtuosic movements effortlessly performed. Our desire for surprise or highlight is thwarted by the visual telegraphing and slow execution of the action content; that the piece feels slightly uncomfortably long also sits well with its nature. The point is, in part, to disappoint. Llamame Mariachi isn’t for everyone and demands viewing with an open mind, but those who stay with it will find their curiosity rewarded.

_*Llamame Mariachi* _*was part of Move: Weekend at Southbank Centre*
“Move: Choreographing You”: continues at the Hayward Gallery until 9 January 2011

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