Marjorie and Fred Reactionary Ire of the Neighbourhood Watch forum, Bridge of Allan are not feeling it tonight. The purring, whiteboy soul of Scritti Politti they can deal with: minimalism and restraint with Michael Clark’s ensemble of six in dark tunics, swooning with rigid posture and exacting hand/leg movements. All very lovely and tasteful in its clean lines, with a brief mischievous appearance by Clark himself, this routine elicits polite applause.
But by the time Public Image Ltd’s Albatross comes crunching on, we are back to the trademark postpunk juxtapositions of energised fouettes and langorous arabesques; extreme bendiness and slowmo as the company, clad in beige, green and black unitards and bathed in green lighting, prepare to shed their skins as with John Lydon’s snotty aversion to punk cliches (the proverbial albatross around his neck.)
Clark comprehends the storytelling in lyrics, and Harry Alexander and Daniel squire leap like Pan entirely apposite for Lydon’s permaadolescent persona.
Fingers are wedged in ears; jaws dropping.
‘Twas ever thus. When Clark first emerged, blurring ballet steps with contemporary to The Fall (culminating in subversive ballet collaboration I Am Curious Orange in 1988) the collective roar from the conservative establishment was deafening. While today he is rightly acknowledged as a trailblazer, the playful, provocative spirit remains.
Pulp’s teasing, elusive Feeling Called L.O.V.E has the sextet exploding like Oscar statuettes in orange and gold unitards, all raw athleticism and headstands, Jarvisesque pointing and gender roles parodied petite Oxana Panchenko dragging six feet something Alexander along the floor like battered roadkill. This sets the scene for the finale the film for Jarvis Cocker’s sleazy, tongue-in-many-cheeks offshoot Relaxed Muscle.
Clark choreographed with his alterego Darren Spooner in mind, a character he has said represents Cocker’s ”dark, misogynist side” a bizarre mashup of late great performance artist Leigh Bowery and…well… the kind of miscreant The Mighty Boosh would baulk at for being too outre. The band appear in spotlight, shaped by an enigmatic Hitchcockian intro where elfin Julie Cunningham shimmies around a giant question mark, and the company respond to their outrageously filthy glam electro with thrusting, grinding and shimmying bursts, humping chairs and rolling around each other, at once integrated with the band, silhouetted against the screen.
It’s easily the most playful project Clark has created in years and the company are sanguine, as alive to new ideas as the day they first titillated the mainstream, still finding new vocabularies to share.They will always be divisive, challenging and making no concession to fashion or populist tastes. It’s enough to make one choke on one’s tea and scones…
Just ask Marjorie and Fred. They’re not happy.