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Arts Festival Review: Good Morning, Mr Gershwin

Published: Fri 19 Mar 2010 06:12 PM
Arts Festival Review: Good Morning, Mr GershwinReview by Rory MacKinnon
Photo: Laurent Philippe
Good Morning, Mr Gershwin
Compagnie Montalvo-Hervieu
St James Theatre
17 – 21 March
If nothing else, Good Morning Mr. Gershwin has the finest gargling solo of all time.
The sprawling, schizoid work from legendary Parisian duo José Montalvo and Dominique Hervieu is a technically accomplished but uneven performance which – says the festival organisers - takes a kaleidoscopic look through dance at the life, works and cultural legacy of George Gershwin and the sound of Tin Pan Alley.
The first half is a light-hearted, cartoonish mish-mash of breakdance, ballet and tap, all-cast Broadway numbers and comical interludes: gargling arias aside, one shadow-play of a dancer ‘grooming’ behind a curtain brought the house down. Meanwhile a vast cyclorama behind the dancers drifts from one euphoric, Dali-esque vision to another; from Bosch-like nudes adorning a giant sandcastle to choirs of baritone snapper leaping in unison from the sea. It’s a wonderful piece of video dance, but it creates a split focus which, when coupled with the sheer size of the St James venue, risks overshadowing the incredibly talented flesh-and-blood onstage.
But despite the light, bright and breezy tone at the outset, Good Morning Mr. Gershwin soon delves into much darker territory. The imagery of storms, lynching and clapboard shacks all recall the profoundly unjust society in which Gershwin lived, while the popping and locking of the first half is suddenly recontextualised as the shuck-and-jive of Gershwin’s era. Now huddled around a front porch, the company’s black members deliver a sombre and raw performance, blending balletic movement with the score of Porgy And Bess in a powerful indictment of the marginalisation of a black underclass throughout the world and across the decades.
Veering sharply between tragic remembrance and comedic vignettes, political commentary and love-letters to pop-culture, Good Morning Mr. Gershwin is a beautifully executed work which never quite finds its centre.
*******
Press release: New Dance Programme Defies Borders
Arts Festival website: Good Morning, Mr. Gershwin
Scoop Full Coverage: Arts Festival 2010

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