If Carl Knif’s Fugue in Two Voices is a joke, then it’s a dud. Having seen his excellent, visceral and arresting Red in 2016 at the Edinburgh Fringe, I was expecting a memorable piece at the very least. Set to Shostakovitch’s powerful preludes and fugues for piano, it aims to juxtapose these strict forms to seven ‘rambling’ dancers. The word ‘rambling’ sets off warning bells. It’s as if Knif has decided to be completely different to Red which is fine as long as it’s interesting but sadly this tedious show at 70 minutes feels interminable.
Random, of course, is the key word.
Knif’s liking for improvisation-based choreography demonstrates all the pitfalls. One wonders if it is actually taking place in performance: paired dancers imitate each other's movements, one slightly behind the other as if not knowing what’s coming next, one female dancer stumbles at one point, the male with long blonde ponytail lying on a table nervously checks the edge as if he fears he may fall. This imprecision characterises the show.
It feels like Knif has abnegated all responsibility as a choreographer. The ‘surprise’ entry of dancers from the front row of the stage is such a cliché only high school students would think it original. Dancers square off crouched like sumo wrestlers or swing away to just walk randomly about the stage. There are no arresting moments or fine lines. It is just a series of instagram images, unoriginal and at times, like anoraks used as matadors’ capes, bewilderingly random.
Random, of course, is the key word. Random objects are introduced: a mic stand, a long blonde wig, a tree branch, a mirror etc, etc. Even the steel poles, which could have led to some interesting patterns and shapes, left me worried that someone was going to be unintentionally impaled. Scrolling through the internet afterwards I discovered an interview in Amusa (21.09.21) where Knif says he wants the dancers and music to ‘carry the work between wild, hilarious, precise and thoughtful expression’. So why doesn’t the blurb say this? Why isn’t it clear in the performance this is supposed to be playful? Even if I knew this beforehand, I don’t think I’d find the show any more fun. I feel like a viewer seeing Duchamp’s urinal (signed R.Mutt) in an art gallery for the first time and wondering if it is we the viewers who are taken for mutts.