Review: Shoot the Cameraman (Assembly Roxy)
A dramatic delve into how we look at dancers
An aspect of live performance that is sometimes taken for granted in comparison to film is that we can choose how we look at a scene. The director and the performers do all they can to create that scene, but ultimately where our eyes wander is entirely down to us. In As We Are’s dance and visual theatre performance Shoot The Cameraman that dynamic is turned on its head by the presence of two cameras on stage, the footage from which is projected onto a screen above the stage. They follow our dancers Catarina Barbosa and Georges Maikel around the stage as they pose, fight, deliver speeches, and break down, all the while being provoked by the constant presence of a camera lens in their faces.
Having such a forceful, cinematic view of the scene at the same time as a theatrical view creates an interesting dynamic of moving between the two and considering how the former is shaping our perception. The filmography tells a story about how the media will stir up attention in unwanted ways when there isn’t much to report on, then sit back and drink it all in when the opposite is true. The performance is at its strongest when it is dealing with this relationship.
By comparison, the actual story it is covering becomes secondary. There are themes of domination, innocence, and manipulation, but it could have been done with a tighter narrative structure and more ebb and flow of tension. There is an impressive soundtrack that centres on Dance of the Knights by Sergei Prokofiev (also known as the Apprentice theme music) that sounds massive in the space, but it is details like that that keep the atmosphere taut at all times and prevent the performance from getting under your skin the way it wants to. Even so, if you just come to see Barbosa dance you will not leave disappointed. Her movements are so sharp and decisive even as her character is anything but.
There is certainly talent in how this Shoot the Cameraman is danced and shot, but conceptually it is not strong enough for the tone it is going for. There are so many multimedia works exploring the idea of liveness, and even though it is a topic that never grows old shows need to find new ways to explore it. Even the theme of how we look at things is being addressed, albeit with mixed results, by Mamoru Iriguchi in What You See When Your Eyes are Closed/ What You Don’t See When Your Eyes are Open at Summerhall this year. The performance that As We Are has created takes a few visual ideas and performs them really well, but by commanding such a sense of grandeur without enough innovation Shoot the Cameraman ultimately shoots itself in the foot. Three stars.
Whispers from the Crowd: It was marvelous! Amazing!
Shoot the Cameraman has completed its run at Assembly Roxy