The Norfolk and Norwich Festival is here again. Every spring the denizens of this city get a taste of cosmopolitan culture and last night I went to see Les Ballets C. de la B. for a little contemporary dance. The company hails from Belgium and is famous in the contemporary dance world. But I confess I knew nothing about them before I went, it being my partner's suggestion.
The show begins tamely enough with a man walking onto the stage from the auditorium and, back to the audience, stripping to his underpants before wrapping himself in a blanket. Presently all nine dancers do the same. Now I don't think Norwich has ever staged 'Hair' but, even at the Theatre Royal, dancing in your underwear, as long as it's 'art', will not get you arrested.
What I do find slightly shocking is the treatment of microphones. These are frequently dropped or dragged along the ground, while a cavernous reverb is applied to the sound. It is very effective (no pun intended) but hey, I've seen plenty of mics dropped in my time. So now I am still enjoying the dance/theatre but part of me is wondering what mics they use, how much they cost and how many shows an individual mic can handle.
The show continues, perhaps it's 90 minutes long, and towards the end I see a man standing, back to the audience, making noises into a microphone while he flexes his back muscles in a manner reminiscent of of the movie 'Altered States'. But, I wonder, how is he holding the mic? Both his hands are balled into fists and he has no lapels or tie, being stripped to his trunks. And then, just as the truth dawns on me, he turns around and I realise I was right (as I hope were you). He has the thing inside his mouth while he makes the most bizarre, primordial animal noises.
And then another dancer climbs up his back and squats on his shoulders as if she is riding this strange beast, like in 'Avatar'. Now my head is reeling with this strange image along with the fact that this is no radio mic. It's attached to a cable which must plug into a mixer which in turn is plugged into the mains. And while I'm absorbing the health-and-safety ramifications the rider takes the mic from his mouth and she puts it in her own. The sounds she makes are just as strange but that's by they are eclipsed by what I just saw.
The rest of the show is excellent, full of the humour, pathos and sheer intensity of what has gone before but now I'm wondering if I have lived too long in the sticks. Was that objectively shocking (whatever that means) or am I just too prudish and provincial? Worse, is my own mic technique just too passé and should I go for retraining?