Arthur Pita’s 'Camp'
Arthur Pita’s 'Camp' is an intriguing, inventive piece of dance theatre, but ultimately a disappointing one. It begins with a novel concept – five dancers, four seasons, three tents and a gamut of possibilites – but while the antics of the performers keep us easily amused, it’s more difficult to really understand their motivations. What is the point of it all?
The 75-minutes of the show do skip by, which is always a plus, and the passing of time is marked onstage as spring turns to summer, then autumn and icy winter, aptly accompanied by snatches of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and atmospheric projections by Luiz Marchetti. Our campers arrive and set up their tents. There’s some flirting, some messing around, some boys trying to do skateboard tricks using their flip flops and some weirdo in his y-fronts. But from this jolly start things begin to veer into stranger territory.
A stomping camp fire dance turns bacchanalian as clothes are ripped off and the dancers also shed some of their more civilised qualities. Pita makes good use of the stage and is imaginative with props. A tent, for example, becomes a woman’s voluminous skirt, and a length of rope goes from innocent scouting accessory to hunter’s snare. But the patchwork of scenes and ideas lacks the glue to make it into something bigger.
The underlying problem is that you can’t create real drama without depth of character and some connection with the audience. Pita has assembled an experienced cast, including Robin Dingemans (DV8, Mark Morris), Michael Pomero (Russell Maliphant), Ben Ash (Ricochet) plus two female dancers Rachel Lopez de la Nieta and Tiziana Fracchiolla (both choreographers in their own right) who are particularly strong, but they don’t always have enough to work with. Pivotal moments pass by, easily ignored.
The most engaging parts of the show are a series of simple male/female duets matching the seasons, which capture the essence of a scene, character and relationship. In spring, the pairing is naive, tender, cool and detached, by summer, steamy, fevered and tactile, and subsequently aggravated and blustery come autumn. As Camp’s more ambitious elements don’t always come off, this proves that the most straightforward scenes can often be the most successful. Sometimes it doesn’t pay to be too clever.