Prodigal Theatre & Gravity Style, The Urban Playground

Review in Issue 20-3 | Autumn 2008

As one of the Without Walls commissions, The Urban Playground has been making its way around the major UK outdoor performance festivals this summer.

So far, I’ve seen it from a balcony in Brighton, in front of a town hall in Winchester, and twice in one day in a park in Manchester. I’ve greatly enjoyed all the shows – although the occasion that shone most brightly was the second slot at Manchester, where, in the blazing sunshine, with an audience giving its all in response to the MC’s calls for appreciation, the ante got upped to a breathtaking high of physical expression.

The combination of parkour (urban freerunning) and contemporary dance techniques is well realised in Miranda Henderson’s choreography and in the performance by a superb six-strong Anglo-French ensemble. The set is an adult-size version of those playground climbing frames with little platforms and bars to jump onto and swing from – and jump and swing they do, around and through and over with grace and ease. But equally important is the ground, which gives opportunities not only for the crowd-pleasing b-boy breakdancing solos, but also for lyrical and dramatic duets and trios that highlight the very different physical attributes and artistic qualities of each performer. Shifts in pace and mood make the piece far more than a demonstration of physical skills (excellent though these are) – it has an ebb and a flow of rhythms and resonances that tell a myriad of stories. All this greatly enhanced by Chris Umney’s stunning ‘city symphony’ soundtrack. A powerful piece of streetwise dance-theatre.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Festival
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Jun 2008

This article in the magazine

Issue 20-3
p. 35