STAGE REVIEW: Wasteland @ Northern Stage, Newcastle (25.09.19) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by Joe Armitage

Exceptionally fierce and furious, poignant yet playful; Wasteland, Gary Clarke’s sequel to the iconic Coal, is political dance at its very finest. Created as an ode to the 25th anniversary marking the closure of Grimethorpe Collery, Wasteland is remarkably topical, a caution from the past to the present. An intricate collaboration of music, imagery, dance and performance that paints a vivid picture of a new music-loving community born from the bricks of derelict warehouses in post-Thatcher Britain. Exploring intensively how two generations subsisted through an era of unsettlement and upheaval, a beautiful balance was crafted between an emotive narrative and an electrifying visual performance.

Clarke applies meaning to every movement performed by the exceptional contemporary dancers, whose energy, angst and focus were infectious, right until the curtain closed. The pounding rave soundtrack submerged the audience into intense and infectious darkness, fitting and transformative of the dance floors in derelict warehouses where this Northern subculture thrived. The community cast of male singers and brass musicians successfully narrated a contrasting generation, crafting a sense of nostalgia and tradition. Visually, the archived film and news footage was a powerful backdrop – curating a sense of shared social and political history to resonate with a Northern audience. The hauntingly repetitive sound of “The emission of a succession of repetitive beats” and “kill the bill”, referring to the 1994 Public Order act, rang around my ears for much of the journey home. Spirited, ardent and paramount, a thrilling production that must be seen heard and felt.


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