Social Secretary Ella Kipling reviews Motionhouse’s production of Nobody and finds it to be a magnificent show that blurs the line between dance and circus stunts


Motionhouse’s production of Nobody at the Birmingham Hippodrome was an absolute feat of choreography, dance, and artistry resulting in what can only be described as a magnificent show. 

An absolute feat of choreography, dance, and artistry

Act One of Motionhouse’s performance begins with a murder of crows flocking to the stage. The dancers, replete with eye-catching beaded black costumes, represent ‘our inner voices and our struggle to find ourselves and who we are,’ artistic director Kevin Finnan MBE explains. From the get-go, the lines between dance and circus are blurred, with the performers executing terrifying lifts and tricks with total ease. The crows slowly evolve into people dressed in everyday clothes, but the whirlwind of choreography does not die down and instead, we see a group of people struggling through the chaos of life in an office environment, a small apartment, and out in town. It is clear the first half is one of dissonance and conflict, which is complemented by the music composed of harsh sounds, bangs, and whispers.

Act Two begins with a large black wave onstage, the dancers each stuck in the fabric and thrashing their limbs about. Then, there is the calm after the storm as the dancers reappear on a now wave-less stage in simplistic costumes of a beige crop top and black trousers for the women, while the men have bare chests. Once you learn that the performance was inspired by the Covid-19 pandemic this metaphor becomes clear. The wave, Covid, left us vulnerable and halted the daily life we knew, the fast-paced life of work, parties, and non-stop movement which we saw demonstrated in Act One. After the wave, the choreography reflects ‘the great lesson that many of us have learned from this experience about the importance of human connections,’ Finnan states.

The use of staging and projections can only be described as cutting edge

Unlike the first half, the movements in Act Two are not sudden, rather they are smooth and bring a sense of calm to the stage. Finnan explains that this half shows the dancers ‘finding the strength in working together,’ which is definitely echoed in the close contact work and lifts. A particular highlight of this half is when the dancers all make their way up the side of the metal box, over the top, and back down the other side without the seven dancers breaking contact with one another. 

The use of staging and projections can only be described as cutting edge, and the large cube made of scaffolding was used as a cage, a prop to facilitate frightening tricks, and a building. Throughout the performance, the cage was often covered and uncovered with a white sheet, used as a base to project images onto it, buildings and offices. The set was anything but static, and the white boxes, which at first represented sky scrapers for the crows to perch upon, were pushed across the stage in Act One to be used as a seat, an oven in an apartment, a pizza box, a table in a restaurant, and much more. The backdrop and projections onto the cage were ever-changing and cleverly used to alter perspective and symbolise the flight of the crows and the fast-paced nature of daily working life.

An incredible work of art from start to finish

The pure talent of the dancers cannot, and should not, be understated. There was rarely a static moment on stage and their movements were graceful yet strong throughout the entire performance. The audience was left marvelling at the strength of the dancers as they threw and caught each other and performed tricks such as three of them standing on the shoulders of one another, before continuing on with the choreography without so much as missing a beat. Every move was made to look effortless, and if any of them were tired, it was impossible to see.

Nobody was an incredible work of art from start to finish, packed with innovative and stunning choreography, immensely talented performers, and a brilliantly unique set. Would I give Motionhouse five stars? Absolutely. If I could, they would get six. 

Rating: 5/5

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