THE public park is one of our most egalitarian spaces. It lets you in regardless of your age, bank balance or social status. With this in mind, choreographer Jasmin Vardimon created Park – an exploration of ownership, belonging, and the people who use their local recreational space day-in, day-out.
Jasmin Vardimon: Park - Theatre Royal, Glasgow
So far, so interesting. The characters who frequent Vardimon’s shabby but well-loved park, with its decaying mermaid fountain, benches and sparse hedge, arrive one by one: the busker, the bag lady, the homeless guy, the streetdancer and his volatile girlfriend, and the mermaid herself who infiltrates the group and seduces them all. Then, entering this world from the outside, there’s the property developer, determined to turn the park into a high-end casino, and the investor he’s keen to impress.
Again, so far, so good. Then comes the choreography. Vardimon has an eye for synchronised movement that jumps up when you least expect it, drawing you in with its hypnotic repetition. Or she’ll throw in a humorous tap dance, a moment of graceful contemporary or some energetic parkour. Characters flip over walls or leap on to the barriers protecting the statue, all of which is executed with real precision and skill.
With so much going for it, Park should be an unforgettable 90 minutes of dance theatre. Instead, it’s a mish-mash of components which never form a whole. The characters are so one-dimensional and unknown to us that feeling any kind of genuine, heart-felt emotion other than irritation is a constant challenge.
As in life, relationships between this disparate bunch ebb and flow. Sometimes they’re close friends, even lovers, other times aggression threatens to bubble over into violence.
Again, this could and should work in the show’s favour – people make and break connections all the time.
Yet this too falls short. We don’t know why they’re there, why the park matters to them, why its closure would impact on their lives.
Backstories aren’t easy to convey in dance, but Vardimon isn’t afraid to play with dialogue – as evidenced by the property developer’s sickly sweet sales pitch – so why not use it to make us care?
It’s impossible to argue with the dynamism, energy and sheer creativity of this piece, all of which go some way to explaining its appeal to some, but not all, in the audience.
But you can’t help but think that Vardimon could captivate everyone if only Park gave us something, or someone, to empathise with.
Seen on 28.01.15
• Run ended