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  • Chris ORourke

Dublin Fringe Festival 2018: Fable

Fable by Human Collective. Image by Cathy Coughlan


Dance and Stories

Four male dancers tell five dark stories in Human Collective’s ambitious dance theatre work, “Fable.” Executing movements built from a firm hip-hop foundation, dancers Matt Szczerek, Tobi Balogun, Leon Dwyer, and Cristian Diroice, transcend their hip hop stylings without ever forgetting their roots. Integrating elements of other styles, with even a little hint of cha cha at one point, their strong palette of movement sequences is heavily influenced by physical motifs from everyday life, beautifully realised and cleverly integrated and played with. All set against an impressive, if often broody score by Grzegorz Szczerek, and some hit and miss visuals by Cathy Coughlan.

In the first story, built around a sort of cockroach revolt, theatrical visuals come into play early on. Some superb Commedia Dell’Arte styled mask work, designer uncredited, opens up suggestive possibilities. As do three sacks, crafting curious images built around the notion of escape. A wonderfully executed fight routine brings the dark to the doorstep, one whose violence is realised in an impressive interplay by the quartet of dancers.

Stories change in relatively quick succession. A touching duet based around a mistreated prisoner immediately follows, seeming to embrace contemporary dance in several places, delivering some beautiful physical moments tenderly and powerfully executed. The third story, the most humorous and playful of all, sees the quartet return to undertake a series of clever journeys on trains and planes, carrying suitcases.

The fourth story delivers a superb solo exploring loneliness and connection. One in which Cathy Coughlan’s films and images projected against the back wall finally shine. Visuals which had been treading water up to this point, looking like stock images found on Google, suddenly break through several levels at once, integrating flawlessly into and out of the performance, adding depth, subtlety and even a hint of narrative. A final sequence again sees hip-hop’s foundation being beautifully informed by everyday physical motifs in yet another dark tale, this one on global warming. One in which a wonderful sequence with umbrellas would have left even Gene Kelly impressed.

Despite some considerable strengths, “Fable” is not without its issues. Thematically, the constant veering towards the self-serious dark sees hope minimised, which some might see as another limit on what it means to be human in this non-female human collective. "Fable" also ends with a whimper rather than a bang following its genuinely impressive journey. At times there’s a slackness, a lack of rigour and exactness in some sequences, even allowing for the loose, raw individuality of the dancers that’s being given expression. Such moments gives “Fable” something of a sloppy appearance at times, something the show doesn’t deserve.

“Fable” finds four male dancers finding their feet as a dance theatre troupe. And doing so with some confidence and style. On the evidence of “Fable” they look like they’ve everything they'll need to soar.

“Fable” by Human Collective, runs at The Project Arts Centre as part of Dublin Fringe Festival 2018 until September 16

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