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Stan Won't Dance - 'Sinner'

Looking for Mr. Goodbar in Soho

by Lyndsey Winship

February 12, 2005 -- Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

I wonder if Rob Tannion and Liam Steel, who perform as Stan Won't Dance, have seen the film Fight Club? Because there is much in this production, "Sinner", that is reminiscent of Chuck Palahniuk’s story about white collar boxing. The naked testosterone for a start, the brutal physicality, the hollow lives, the fine line between reality and delusion, and most of all, the revelation that the ugliest, most destructive desires might lurk within any one of us.

"Sinner" is based in part on the story of the Soho Bomber, David Copeland, who killed three people and injured 70 in a nail bomb attack on a Soho gay pub in 1999. Copeland was a racist, homophobic bigot who was looking for notoriety. On the day of the attack, he walked into the pub and chatted to a man at the bar, saying he was waiting to meet his boyfriend, before planting a sports bag containing a home-made bomb.

As well as recreating this scene, "Sinner" also sets out an alternative possibility where the bomb does not detonate and the meeting of the two men leads to an evening of awkwardness, flirtation, intimidation and excess, which could be any night in any number of bars in any city. But even in this parallel world, the destructive feelings that we attribute to the bomber – alienation, disaffection and loneliness, as well as the quest to be somebody – are never far from surface.

As you’d expect from two former members of DV8, "Sinner" is innovative, intensely physical, confrontational stuff, with plenty of deft comedy thrown in. The stage is set as if at the moment of impact, in a cloud of smoke, with tables upturned and chairs suspended in the air. Tannion swaggers in, all confidence, as Steel’s character fumbles and stammers, and their gestures externalise their inner anxieties even when their spoken words send more muted messages.

The performance perfectly captures the less attractive aspects of dating, drinking and debauchery – the seediness, the sadistic power play, the chemical highs and the real lows. As we descend deeper into the world of these two men, we see how strong beliefs might turn into extreme actions when people’s desires, passions and hatreds blind them to reason.

The tone could be preachy, but Tannion and Steel perform with such conviction that they mostly carry it off. Only towards the end of the piece does it feel like they’re stretching the material and punching their point home a little heavy-handedly. The clever lighting and video effects, projected onto the floor, and the slick soundtrack also add to the weight of the performance.

Stan Won’t Dance has recently been chosen as Artists in Residence at the South Bank Centre and they definitely deserve the chance to develop further their ambitious brand of hard-hitting theatre.

Edited by Staff.

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