After Resurrection, Original Sin and Hell Bent, there could really only be one title for Nigel Charnock's compilation of "greatest hits" from his performance trilogy. He confronts his audience with torrents of emotional and at times physical nakedness, and if he is less than 100% successful he nevertheless risks, and succeeds, more in two hours than many performers in two years.
Charnock has eschewed the "pure" dance of DV8, the company which he co-founded, in favour of as much impurity as possible. From his first words – a rain of bilious frogs upon every target he can think of – it is apparent that this is a man out to cover all conceivable angles of sex and relationships, and to cover them with his own often deliberately unlovely secretions: "what is love?" asks a voice in a telephone conversation; "Well," he replies, "are you swallowing?"
His stuttering rapid-fire verbal riffs are the least consistent sequences in terms of impact, but generally he moves too quickly for his failures to catch up with him. He switches from gibber to elegy to dance to music – deploying a rich voice on everything from torch-songs to a brash manifesto of polymorphous perversity (imagine early Bette Midler rapping), accompanied by Nicholas Skilbeck on piano.
However, as much as The Second Coming is a vibrantly "Queer" show, these are at root the pains of any sexually and emotionally active adult. Charnock may change into a spangled cocktail-dress for a number or two, but his costume does not detract from the power when he sings "The Man That Got Away"; he might jitterbug around the floor with a mannequin, but the meat of the episode follows in a sad, one-sided seduction conversation.
Above all, his dance sequences are breathtaking. They seem to have a direct line to his spirit, desires and sufferings; he immerses himself in movement like an eager martyr, thirsty for the flames. This is not an idle simile: a passage which begins unaccountably movingly with Charnock writhing sleepless in bed enters another dimension when the duvet is cast aside to reveal a full-sized cross with which he proceeds to execute an awesome danse macabre. In the final section of the show, he flings his naked body repeatedly against the floor with frightening violence, ending on Skilbeck's sombre line, "We are all meat together."
Charnock deliberately describes his pieces as "shows", thinking primarily of the spirit of blatant performance which underpins them, but the word is equally redolent of exposure. He leaves nothing hidden; the result is far from pleasant and sometimes flirts with tedium, but is undeniably strong stuff.
Written for the Financial Times.
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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