Tender is the Night comes from the title of an F.Scott Fitzgerald novel but Tallulah Holly-Massey’s experimental new dance work draws more upon the original reference found in John Keats’ romantic poem Ode to a Nightingale.
It’s a set constructed with banana boxes, plastic bags, balloons and other forms of mostly single-use detritus. White noise and static draw us in for the first few minutes while tiny shifts beneath the rubble indicate a potential awakening of this wasteland.
The narrative is stark, both in the naked forms of the two dancers (Holly-Massey and Kosta Bogoieyski) and their search for meaning amongst the desolation. Stumbling through the chaos, these characters appear almost identical with matching underwear and wigs.
Through their movements, they offer a trajectory that steps into the rubble, out into space, explores feeling and concludes with the aftermath of disaster — or so the programme tells us. Occasionally, the narrative becomes too fractured and repetition overrides meaning but the choreography is strong with taut lines and memorable form. The story itself is scrambled, intentionally so, and its unexpected cohesiveness almost makes up for the occasional lack of coherence.
It’s a work that plays with bodies, shapes, the past and the present and the particular. The highlight of the work is undoubtedly the score, the music is both beguiling and abrasive and syncs well with the narrative, especially James Risbey’s compositions.
Tender is the Night is highly exploratory in nature and this contributes to its own charm. In 2018, it is excellent to see an increase in dance works at the Basement – Holly-Massey is this year’s artist-in-residence – and with further support the work will undoubtedly grow into its fuller form.