Project X (FringeTIX)
Raw Metal Dance Company @ The Umbrella Revolution
7:15pm, Mon 5 Mar 2007
So – it’s my first visit to the Garden of Unearthly Delights for 2007. It has, of course, been open since last Thursday, and early visitors have worn the water-deprived parklands down markedly. The Garden looks anything but lush; pale, trampled grass and patches of bare dirt are the order of the day now.
Surprisingly, the Garden doesn’t feel affected by the lack of Spiegeltent; if anything, the wider open space makes that area feel more accepting, more friendly. A lot of the vendors and sideshows of years gone by reinforce this familiarity.
I always feel a little apprehensive choosing shows in oddball timeslots – though it’s always out of necessity, I’m often afraid that piss-poor crowds will turn up. This being a Monday night, before the formal opening of the Fringe, The Fear struck me here, too; thankfully, there was a medium crowd of about 40 there, making the Umbrella Revolution feel sufficiently populated. Maybe Project X broke even on the performance, a toughie given that it had a troupe of ten onstage.
Ten people? Yup – five dancers, a great backing band of four, and a fantastic beatboxer all combine to produce a vibrant music-and-dance performance that’s chock-full of energy, humour, and – most importantly – enthusiasm.
The band are ace – tight, punching through rock and funk numbers with aplomb, veering into bold themes (including a Charleston-esque swing-jazz number) where appropriate, and not too overpowering. A bit of a Pablo Percusso-esque garbage drumkit, some mimed drumming to the beatbox – it’s all good.
But the front-men are, for the most part, the five dancers. Although most of their dance centres around tap, I found myself initially thinking that I was watching an old New Kids On The Block dance number – but these guys are cheeky with their stage presence, loose with their moves; and that makes the performances feel alive, immediate, gritty. As a group, they were obviously unafraid to hide their emotions on stage – looks of mild concern as the stage bows considerably during certain parts of the performance – so when they grin, which is often, you feel as if they’re really, really enjoying being up there.
There’s plenty of humour – one dancer a terrific scapegoat, another a cheeky rubber-faced loon – and some clever aspects to the performance; doffing the tap shoes, the lads return onstage and perform another piece of tap-esque dance wearing thongs (that’s feet flip-flops, not the other thongs – stupid English language). But the real surprise about Project X is that it never feels like it’s dragging on; each piece in the performance is perfectly timed, yielding maximum enjoyment.
At the end of the show, the 40-ish patrons who turned up were clapping and hooting in glee; it was a genuinely joyous (and family-friendly!) show, handsomely worth attending.
(A neat aside: one of the dancers had a rawk aspect to his character, flashing the Devil’s Horns to the crowd during his solos. A little girl (she couldn’t have been more than ten) sitting with her parents in front of me tugged her father’s shirt and asked him what the dancer was doing. Dad’s face lit up, and he spent a blissful couple of minutes teaching his daughter about the Horns, and she proudly waved them about for the rest of the show. Dad just wore a big grin.)
(A not-so-neat aside: don’t bother with Raw Metal’s MySpace page unless you’re immune to The Horror that seems to infect all MySpace pages.)