by Leonard Miller
Reviewed on Sat, 10/05/2014 - 00:58am
Leonard Miller Total Reviews: 14
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Theatre Review by Leonard Miller

What: Hex ‚?? Next Wave Festival 2014
Where: fortyfivedownstairs
When: 6th -11th May
Directed and Choreographed by James Welsby
Performed by Chafia Brooks, Benjamin Hancock and James Welsby

Celebrating its thirtieth year, the Next Wave Festival was established to foster creativity and experimentation with a focus on young emerging artists. In choosing choreographer James Welsby as a Next Wave Kickstart recipient and in programming his remarkable new work Hex, the festival has given everyone a birthday present. Full of energy and wit, the piece covers old ground in a new way and promises something of the grand new narrative which is the theme for this year‚??s Next Wave.

Hex is a discussion of the HIV/AIDS crisis which shook the western world from the early eighties to the mid nineties. It is a topic that has had many performative renderings, but Welsby still finds something new to say and a new way to say it. Lasting about an hour, the work draws strongly from the club dance styles of the period and almost uses them as its language. This also makes for a high energy show and all three dancers impress with their fitness and discipline.

Accompanied by the enthralling Benjamin Hancock and the enchanting Chafia Brooks, Welsby uses the trio‚??s youth to echo the reality of some of the victims of the crisis and to pose a new question - what does the crisis mean to a generation who didn‚??t live through it? The costume design by Bryn Meredith was excellent, with all three looking like they belonged in both a gay nightclub of the 1980s and of now. This blurred the lines between generations and was particularly potent considering the rise of new HIV infection among today‚??s youth.

Not leaving a moment unconsidered, Hex had the audience transfixed. The choreography was as hypnotic as it was intelligent and the dancers moved it beautifully. Claudio Tocco‚??s sound was often pumping but never grating and it complemented the piece perfectly.

Welsby calls this work ‚??queer performance‚?Ě and it will perhaps have most resonance for gay men who lived through the original onslaught of the AIDS virus. It would be a mistake to discount it, however. Hex transcends its genre. The freshness of its voice and the craft and consideration in its creation mean it will speak to all and provide an excellent hour‚??s entertainment.

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