“Big Bag of Boom”

at Warwick Arts Centre, Wednesday 12th October 2011

Written for www.StageWon.co.uk

Many people would argue that experimental dance is a transcendent mode of self-expression, reaching deep into the human psyche to tell us more about our inner selves. It’s able, they say, to destroy barriers and bring us closer together, exploring themes which even literature can’t touch through the power of movement. To us mere mortals, however, it more often than not looks like one big joke, and New Art Club have got it exactly right in Big Bag of Boom, where their only aim is to make us laugh.

This is a compilation of all Tom Roden and Pete Shenton’s ‘best bits’ over the fourteen years they have been together, so for someone who has never seen their work before, it is a perfect introduction. Their dances range from “Girl with a Shitty Shoe”, which is fairly self-explanatory, taking inspiration from river-dance, and “One and Another”, a masterclass in self-control and vocal dexterity.

But Roden and Shenton aren’t just technically brilliant. They are also brilliant comedians. They know what an audience wants, and manipulate their routines accordingly. Many of the dances are extended jokes which lead to a punchline, meaning there’s always something to look forward to at the end. Their piece about Australia begins as Aborigine sound and movement, and leads to riffing on the idea of intercourse with various Aussies.

At an hour in length, Big Bag of Boom is a wonderful way to spend an evening. It doesn’t try too hard and doesn’t go on for too long. It wouldn’t surprise me if Roden and Shenton begin to rise up the ranks of comedy, as a new alternative wave takes hold. Then again, it doesn’t really matter if they don’t. They’ve always got their dancing to fall back on.

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