Dirty Decadence

Exeter University's Theatre With Teeth brings their modern ballet to Edinburgh, presenting the story of three couples and a maid on a weekend away. This alcohol-fuelled partner-swapping, sexually-confused, weekend is not so much bohemian Bacchanalia but an orgy of aristocratic entitlement ending in tragedy. Based on Laura Wade's play Posh, the ballet lacks the overt references to the Bullingdon Club and its ilk; however the satirical target of a group of self-entitled, self-important, fundamentally selfish, despicably immoral and socially isolated individuals is clear enough.

The soundtrack of dubstep beats over remixed classical music works well without seeming gimmicky, adding a sense of sass and crackle and popping with tension.

The narrative is easy to follow, but these are not rounded characters who we can feel for, but strictly unlikable compact cut-outs; exaggeration and repetition dominate, from facial expressions down to the uniform evening dresses for the women and tuxedos for the men. By broadening the performance the pantomime element flattens the satirical sting. The intended targets are de-politicised, becoming mere cyphers of generic wealth and pomposity, an muted attack on poshness and privilege in general.

The staging is minimal, with just a table and chairs, which is possibly inevitable due to the tiny space available in the venue. The small space works well to heighten a sense of claustrophobia, as more alcohol is imbibed, personal space diminishes and relationships get entangled. The use of freezing out background dancers to focus on the centre dancer is effective and humorous. Towards the end of the show, the amount of people performing different moves on stage simultaneously increases. This is slightly chaotic, but visually impressive, and it corresponds to the increasing mania of the weekend.

The dancing is sexy and dynamic, as they leap, prance and twist around the stage. The females swoon on with flowing evening dresses; at one point seductive, at another sororal, and often catty. One dance, following a unexpected romantic disclosure, is sudden, quick, passionate, joyous, and fiery – with the music reflecting this. The timing is not always perfect however, and some moves appear clumsy. There are moments where the narrative and choreography are not in unity, when certain movements appear thrown in and do not fit with character or moment. There is also a reliance on the table as prop, and a lot of repetitive moves based around this.

The soundtrack of dubstep beats over remixed classical music works well without seeming gimmicky, adding a sense of sass and crackle and popping with tension. It is however, a bit loud, which is at times distracting and uncomfortable. The use of flashing lights, though infrequent, are heavy-handed and also create discomfort.

Though there are some flaws, Theatre with Teeth have, through the unlikely union of ballet and a dub-classical soundtrack, managed to tell a story that is accessible and thoroughly enjoyable.

Reviews by Alice Quine

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The Blurb

When pleasure takes over logic. When seven close friends escape to a country estate for a weekend of fun things begin to fall apart when the group's indulgences cross the boundaries of friendship and love. Taking inspiration from Laura Wade's Posh, this piece infuses ballet with a modern narrative. Set to a score of remixed classical music this is modern ballet charged with a vibrant atmosphere. Think Matthew Bourne on LSD. 'Exuberant and innovative' **** (ThreeWeeks).