At the 2015 Edinburgh Fringe, Spanish-born choreographer Joan Clevillé showed his hand to the world. A former dancer with Scottish Dance Theatre, and now based in Dundee, Clevillé launched his own company with an unforgettable work that made the whole dance community sit up and listen. A strong mix of dynamic movement and thought-provoking text, Plan B for Utopia was an astonishing debut that Clevillé and his dancers have spent the past two years touring to great acclaim.
Joan Clevillé Dance: The North **
With the bar set so high, the company’s new work had much to live up to – and unfortunately, it doesn’t come close. Whereas Plan B for Utopia spoke to people about hopes and dreams in a language they could understand, The North takes a far more surrealist approach. In itself, that’s no bad thing – and visually works very well. The dramatic opening scene, in which performer John Kendall is dragged onto the stage in a large polythene bag, plants multiple questions in our mind: who is he, where is he, who are the two women pulling him?
As time goes by, this confusion is echoed by our protagonist, and the more he resists his new environment, the worse he feels. When acceptance finally comes, it’s of comfort to him but has little impact on us.
His internal journey may have been littered with visual treats – a falling snowstorm of miniature mountains, a tiny Christmas tree festooned with lights – but sadly, The North is more a series of half-formed ideas than a fully-fledged show.