The Storm – Oxford Playhouse

I’ll be honest, I’ve never voluntarily gone to a dance performance. I went to the ballet for my ninth birthday, admittedly; I’ve seen friends in school dance productions; I enjoy theatre from a performance perspective. But paying a good chunk of money to watch people ‘move meaningfully’? Don’t know about that.

But The Storm brought to life by James Wilton Dance may have just changed my mind.

The cast of seven are irrefutably talented. Weaving in and out of group and solo work, in sync one moment and out the next, gave a level of intricacy that was wonderful to follow. Two of the supporting actors in particular moved beautifully together, exhibiting massive trust and knowing exactly where each other would be at any given moment.

The electro-rock soundtrack was engaging, and the mix of contemporary, break dancing, contact work, and acrobatics kept the audience on their toes – at least for the first half. It could have done without the interval, and the second half was borderline repetitive. And even then the first half took a while to warm up into it – the synchronisation, at points, was just tenuous enough to make me wonder if it was intentional or slightly out.

The Storm is ostensibly about mental health: “you can’t see the wind, but you can see how it changes objects. You can’t see unhappiness, but you can see how it changes people”. It’s easily seen in Norikazu Aoki and Sarah Jane Taylor’s characters. Taylor was particularly emotive, despite the slight lack of narrative development.

I couldn’t tell if Ihsaan De Banya’s “supportive friend” character was actually the friend or rather the enemy – he was sufficiently patronising that he could have been either. But maybe that’s the point? Anyone who’s experienced addiction, depression, mental illness in any form, knows how it can easily masquerade as a friend. How it can seem comforting, safe, known. And how it’s actually the enemy all along.

And maybe that’s why I actually got ridiculously invested in this. At the end of the day, all of the underlying themes are about friendship and danger, support and isolation, relationships on every level. Embarrassingly, I became rather emotional. It feels like an inevitably selfish experience – its up to you to extrapolate meaning or impose your own meaning – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Honestly, at the end of the day, I didn’t really “get” it, but who says you have to? It made me feel something.

 

PHOTO: Steve Tanner

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Catrin Haberfield

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