Review: Double Murder
By Jay Darcy
I’ve been looking forward to seeing Double Murder (from Tony Award-winning Israeli choreographer Hofesh Shecther OBE) since before the pandemic. The trailer for Clowns (the first half of the double bill) had me engrossed (emphasis on gross). I was so happy when HOME announced it as part of their Spring Summer 2022 Theatre Season.
Before the piece began, there was a little prologue, in which the dancers celebrated the return of live theatre – and Hofesh Shechter Company’s return to the stage.
Clowns is, without a doubt, some of the best dancing I have ever seen. It is no surprise that it has been recorded and broadcast by the BBC.
In fact, it doesn’t feel right calling what I saw in Clowns dancing. Perhaps “choreography” is the better word. Not that dancing is not varied and versatile, but Clowns is so much more than just dance.
One might criticise the piece for being excessively violent, but one would be missing the point entirely. In a nutshell, Clowns is a macabre comedy and a twisted satire of our growing indifference to violence. Hofesh Shechter Company refers to it as “a whirlwind of choreographed anarchy, testing how far we are willing to go in the name of entertainment”.
The piece becomes increasingly twisted, with the murder count growing exponentially. The murder count must be in the hundreds. The choreography is faultless – the dancers’ move around like mutated beasts, malfunctioning like broken machines. It is a disturbing display of choreographed chaos.
I will not spoil the ending, but it was a satisfying ending to a sanguine piece of dance.
I was so ready for the interval. Not because I wasn’t enjoying it – on the contrary: never has dance made me feel so much – but it was emotionally exhausting and mentally overwhelming. I could not wait to get out of the theatre.
When I first read that The Fix (previously called New Creation) is an “antidote” (indeed, a fix) to “the murderous, poisonous energy of Clowns”, I was disappointed. Clowns looked so disturbingly beautiful (or beautifully disturbing), and that is what I was going for – I did not need it to be resolved. However, after the (beautiful) nightmare that was Clowns, I could not wait to swallow that remedy!
The Fix was obviously not going to live up to Clowns. I cannot fault the dancing, but it was not my cup of tea – it’s not something I’d ever choose to see (unless, of course, it was packed in a double bill with Clowns). I was a little bored, especially towards the beginning, where it was a little monotonous. It got more interesting as time went by, but I found myself looking forward to leaving – and not because I was disturbed.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great piece, and I appreciated it; I just didn’t particularly enjoy it – but others did.
The ending was interesting. The dancers broke the fourth wall, quite literally, by stepping offstage and heading into the audience. It began with a single dancer opening his arms in front of an audience member, who responded by giving him a hug. Then, the other dancers followed. I was sat in the middle of a row, so I did not get a hug…
Whilst it was a little on-the-nose, it was a warm, sweet and, best of all, unexpected ending that really did fix the “murderous, poisonous energy” of the previous act.
Whilst that was its intended effect, one might see it as counterintuitive – sure, Clowns leaves a sick feeling in your stomach, but isn’t that the point? Clowns is entertaining, but we’re not getting high off the violence (at least, I hope we’re not) – rather, it confronts us with a cold, hard truth.
Whilst The Fix is a resolution, of sorts – a response to Clowns, in that it is a call for change and a delicate sprout that reveals what can be, if only we let it grow – it arguably prevents one from fully processing the message(s) of Clowns.
It was a shame to see empty seats in the audience because Clowns is not only entertaining but important; it’s incredible how movement can have such an affect on you.
If this exact bill returns to Manchester, I’ll jump at the chance to see it again, if only to pleasure/torture myself with Clowns once more, before leaving at the interval – call me a masochist, but that ending cannot possibly be topped (not even by warm hugs).
Whilst Double Murder ended its UK tour at HOME, you can keep up to date with current and future productions on its website.