DIG: Crowd

Tramway, Glasgow

Mary Brennan


THE stage at Tramway One looks like a derelict wasteland. An expanse of hard earth, littered with empty beer cans, water bottles, crisp packets...

But as the techno beat kicks in, that grotty no-man’s-land transforms into an impromptu club where chums and loners cluster together and dance. Actually, Crowd - choreographed by Franco-Austrian director Gisèle Vienne - looks beyond spaced-out bodies throwing shapes and vividly catches the actions in between, when inhibitions slacken off, prompting random encounters with passing strangers.

Vienne uses these incidents to highlight how a crowd - often responding as one to the insistent, throbbing bass lines - is a mash-up of individuals. There are urgent kisses and gentle snugglings, but there are aggressive flare-ups between some of the lads. And there are also opportunistic, groping hands... sometimes swiftly rebuffed, but in the case of one boy trying to get intimately close to another, there’s simply a fixedly static non-response that hints at conflicted sexuality.

Across the 90 minutes on-stage (no interval) you’re drawn into a hugely clever piece of observational performance that echoes the dynamics of 1990s rave culture to explore timeless social issues - the misfits, the thrill-seekers, the vulnerable, the lonely who make up Vienne’s crowd are still with us, trying to escape their reality... trying to find ‘their’ tribe.

Her 15 dancers, seven women and eight men, drift onto the space already in character and totally inhabit those identities throughout. Pick any one of them - maybe the flirty girl in the sparkly shoes, or the cool dude defying the mud in all-white gear - and their personal narrative will gradually emerge.

As bodies jerk and thrash, or - from time to time - hold stock-still, in freeze-frame tableaux, the mood shifts from euphoria to something sad and lost. When smoke unexpectedly rises from various dancers’ jackets, it’s as if a generation is burnt out - a last man standing, however, keeps on dancing. Stunning, unforgettable, fierce…