Plan B for Utopia is the first full-length work to come out of the still relatively new Dundee based company Joan Clevillé Dance. It was premiered at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this year, and finds itself at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre Studio tonight as part of its UK tour.
This is dance theatre proper, a heady blend of dance, drama, physical theatre and comedy, and has benefitted from the input of not just a chorographer (Clevillé) and the dancers themselves but also, in a very insightful move, a dramaturgist (Ella Hickson). The risk here is, of course, that excellent dancers (and Solène Weinachter and John Kendall are wonderful dancers) may not make excellent actors or comedians, but in fact every aspect of Plan B for Utopia is executed to the same high standard.
We discover, for example, that Weinachter has a real gift for comedy, her timing and delivery impeccable, with Kendall brilliant as her dour straight man: a great deal of Plan B for Utopia turns out to be very funny indeed. One of the most notable aspects of Weinachter and Kendall’s performance is the portrayal of their relationship, which conveys very convincingly, a deep and very touching intimacy. Indeed, their connection generally throughout the piece is truly remarkable.
Written and directed by Clevillé, this is a very nicely conceived work, made up of a number of smaller sections that link together very effectively. The collaborative and exploratory nature of Plan B for Utopia appears to have worked very well, and is evident in, for instance, the real commitment that the performers give to it, seeming to genuinely own it throughout. However, somehow the overall form of the work doesn’t quite hang together as well as it might, perhaps a side-effect of the collaborative process: it feels as if it still needs one final, executive edit to tighten it up completely.
Nevertheless, this does not detract at all from the joy of watching these excellent performers delivering what is an often very moving work. Joan Clevillé Dance is certainly a company worth watching out for in the future.