Review: Bamboozled (French Insititute in Scotland)
Updated: Sep 5
An audio-visual multi-media jumbled bag of stuff
Waiting for guests to arrive for a party is usually a dull void of perfecting the playlist and praying that the talkative ones arrive first, but not for Constant Vigier and Sonia Killmann. No, they start to create, dance, and…watch a video for over 20 minutes? In any case, Bamboozled by Killmann and Vigier is a dance and music performance in which Killmann plays piano, saxophone and electronics, while Vigier dances, showing off his pedigree having recently left Scottish Ballet.
His experience shows – his movement is both jagged and elegant in a way that has been carefully engineered and executed exactly as intended. It is a shame that it being so tight and contained makes his performance cold to watch as an audience member. He dances, but he rarely performs. In some dancers, this can be beautiful, as though you are seeing them lose themselves in their own movement. But Vigier’s choreography is too stiff and precise to have that carefree quality, and so what audiences are left with a performance that is just very uninviting.
Meanwhile, Killmann plays the piano, mixing it with electronics, and occasionally plays the saxophone as Vigier dances behind her. She is a talented musician but never creates anything that is an attraction in itself. The whole time it feels like something is missing – like we are watching layers of sight and sound being built up and we just have to wait for this “audio-visual” experience we were promised to come together. But it never does. It is like the choreography, music and multimedia were put together first and the concept of a house party was a half-baked afterthought. It doesn’t matter how talented the theatre-makers are, any show that is made without something to bind their talents together will end up feeling bitty and lacklustre.
To make things worse, any energy they have built up in the first two-thirds grinds to a halt when the multimedia element kicks in. What this entails is sixteen videos of Vigier dancing against a white background, usually in brightly coloured morph suits, arranged in a grid and projected on the backdrop. All the little Vigiers are synchronised, not to imitate each other perfectly but to make ripples of movement across the screen when put all together. It took great skill to make, and even more when Vigier joins in and dances in time with all his digital selves, but the novelty and repetition of it grows very old very quickly. None of the visuals are particularly innovative or exciting, in fact they could easily be mistaken for a music video from the 2000s. The whole performance is inspired by a five-minute short film that Killmann and Vigier made for BBC’s Dance Passion 2022, which used the same style with dancers in little white squares moving in and out of sync with each other. Although it still looks a little dated for 2022, watching it for five minutes in this form makes sense; through a screen, with performances as live as they are ever going to be, making the most of a digital format and its possibilities. Watching a projection, in a theatre, with the performers themselves watching it too sat on chairs and piano stools, for damn near twenty minutes, does not make sense.
By the end of the performance, any remaining pretence that it has been about a housewarming party is gone, and the performers shuffle off, leaving as lively an atmosphere as they came in with. This is a party and a performance that will have you twiddling your thumbs and counting the minutes. Killmann and Vigier have brought their talents to the table, but they have no coherent vision to bond them together, create a narrative, to produce a desired effect on the audience. This show won’t leave you feeling “bamboozled”, just short-changed. One star.
Whispers from the Crowd: "I don't know where to begin! It was incredible. They are perfect together." "I was impressed with the timing. It's easy to forget how many takes that involves. I liked when he joined in as well, I was hoping he would do that."
Bamboozled has completed its run at the French Insititute in Scotland