H2 at the Edinburgh Playhouse, Edinburgh Festival Review

I’ll open this Edinburgh Festival dance review by quoting you the programme notes for H2, as they were the basis for my booking last night: “H2 is an explosive new work from young Brazilian choreographer Bruno Beltrão which fuses the breathtaking energy, colour and shape of hip hop dance into a unique contemporary dance style. Beautiful, erotic and full of life it has received rave reviews across America and Europe.”

I was so looking forward to this show at Edinburgh’s Playhouse theatre. The first five minutes were indeed “spectacular” and breathtaking”. The rest of the show, bar another 5 minutes at the end, were certainly “unique”. Though if writing the programme I’d have chosen a more appropriate wording, namely “disgrace”. Last night I wasted an hour of my life that I just won’t get back.

“Hip hop loves the beat of the music” was projected onto the back of the stage. After each ‘performance’ a word or two disappeared. Unfortunately “the music” disappeared first (after just 5 minutes) and the show died with it; it was a sudden death that killed any nuance of enjoyment. Solo performers came onto stage and performed repetitive moves over and over again in a slow, methodical manner. Many audience members thought it was a joke and began trying to contain their laughter. Those with more sense began to walk out of the theatre - during one stage of the performance the exits were crowded. While I usually think it’s inconsiderate to walk out of a show early I had sympathy here, don’t forget the show had been sold as “spectacular” and “energetic”. I don’t agree with how this show was described in the programme and by the number of early leavers last night, I was not in the minority.

Some might say a show that provokes extreme reaction like this is what the Edinburgh Festival is about. With H2 I don’t believe it for a second. Complete and utter nonsense.

When ‘Loves’ was the last word on screen all the male dancers lined up on the stage and began snogging each other. Was this supposed to shock? Was this supposed to be a statement that Hip Hop isn’t just for heterosexuals? All I can say with any degree of certainty was how pathetic can a choreographer get? Hello!!! This is the 21st century: maybe this would have been a statement a decade or two ago, but no longer. Wake up and smell the coffee choreographer- times have changed and our 21st century culture doesn’t demand ’statements’ like these. However, like every other ‘piece’ in this show, it lasted far too long and over emphasised a fairly terrible point. At times I thought we must be watching a rehearsal.

One guy running around stage backwards while the other looks on, a small circle of light moving across stage and a repetitive, low volume white noise in the background. I was half interested for all of 10 seconds, but again Bruno Beltrão emphasised a point so much that the only tangible output was a few more dozen empty seats in the theatre. For 50 minutes the only significant noise, bar the escapees, was the screeching of trainers on the stage.

The biggest pity was the fact talented dancers, as these clearly were, had been directed to perform such pretentious drivel. The programme also stated the dancers performed against a “backdrop of video projections”. In reality the stage and backdrop occasionally changed colour. This wasn’t so much a deconstruction of hip hop, but a massacre.

One might look for meaning in H2. Personally I wouldn’t bother. The only argument could be one of fasting - because you’re starved of enjoyment/stimulus for 50 minutes you will enjoy the final five minutes so much more. Only one problem: I don’t pay £12 to be starved.

Thankfully H2’s run at the Edinburgh Playhouse has finished. Hopefully it will never return.

2 Responses to “H2 at the Edinburgh Playhouse, Edinburgh Festival Review”

  1. I went to this show on Tuesday and it was honestly the worst show I’ve ever been to. It wasn’t even funny, innovative or anything like it had been billed to be. My biggest regret was that I didn’t walk out half way through, along with the people next to me. A total waste of time and a disgrace to the Festival.

  2. Thank goodness someone has had the courage to actually give a true picture of how terrible this show was. The Guardian and Times reviewers are obviously terrified to look ‘out of touch’ and give it four star billings. However, I have studied experimental / physical theatre and contemporary dance for many years and I am afraid this show was not ‘groundbreaking’, just poorly constructed, woeful in fact, and pointless.

    The dancers were not ‘talented’. Let me qualify that - they were fantastic hip hop dancers (although we were only allowed about 5 minutes of this), but when they started to perform the slow motion sections etc, their technique was awful - one of them couldn’t even keep a pose still for a few seconds. If you want to see superb contemporary dancers, just check out a DV8 show.

    I am all for experimentation, defying expectations, the shock of the new and so on, but if you are going to do that, don’t sell (expensive) tickets by stealth, marketing your show in a way that leads to your audience to believe they are going to be attending a completely different show.

    In fact, much of the blame may well lie with the festival, as they convieniently programmed Telesquat prior to H2, which was a much more dynamic show, and was reviewed as such, just before H2 was being staged. As the reviewer above notes, to then describe a show as excruciatingly, painfully slow and tedious as this as “an explosive new work… which fuses the breathtaking energy, colour and shape of hip hop dance into a unique contemporary dance style” is verging on criminal.

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