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NASSER MARTIN-GOUSETT PAYS TRIBUTE TO SWORD AND BEDROOM EPIC

Nasser Martin-Gousset
Photo courtesy of the Théatre de la Ville, Paris

 

By Patricia Boccadoro

PARIS, 7 MAY 2007— Nasser Martin-Gousett's creation Péplum  (Pop Life II) opens with music from a Hollywood spectacular set in Roman times booming out, perhaps the sound-track of Joseph L. Mankiewicz' film, Cleopatra (1963), with a Roman soldier in full battledress on one side of the stage of the Théatre de la Ville to ensure the message passed. A male dancer in blue jeans is pasting photos onto a blank wall behind him as the music stops to give way to the seductive and so-distinctive clipped Welsh diction of Richard Burton (Antony), announcing,

"I've given up wine and trusting".

A chubby male dancer, stark naked under his flimsy white robe , comes on eating grapes, (Caesar?), before vomiting them , and starts to fling himself passionately and energetically all over the stage, running up and falling down the six or seven raised steps leading to the wall. We don't get to see all of his bare bottom, just half of it, but the scene is done well. Other dancers arrive and soon there are eight other people on stage as well as a percussionist who has (unfortunately) replaced Richard Burton. The choreography is fast-moving and a bit chaotic, but Nasser Martin-Gousset keeps our interest up.


Nasser Martin-Gousset's Péplum (Pop Life II)
Photo: Jean-Pierre Maurin
Photo courtesy of the Théatre de la Ville, Paris

The impression's given that much has been happening before we arrived and a bewildered audience is thrust into the thick of things. One's eye is drawn to an attractive dark-haired woman in tight-fitting yellow shorts (Cleopatra?) with a hair-do reminiscent of Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra. There can be no doubt. The choreographer is most definitely paying tribute, not only to the Antony and Cleopatra of Shakespeare and Shaw, but also to the real life couple formed by Burton and Taylor, whose much publicized love life was played out on the set of the film.


Nasser Martin-Gousset's Péplum (Pop Life II)
Photo: Jean-Pierre Maurin
Photo courtesy of the Théatre de la Ville, Paris

Videos and live filming, which are projected onto the back of the stage, accompany the action and are interspersed by short excerpts from the Hollywood movie, while Taylor's voice is heard demanding Antony how long he intended to stay with her;

"Until we have nothing more to say", is Burton's gallant reply. The audience laps it all up until shortly after, for no apparent or seemingly valid reason, the Roman soldier gets all his clothes taken off while Caesar is bathed.


Nasser Martin-Gousset's Péplum (Pop Life II)
Photo: Jean-Pierre Maurin
Photo courtesy of the Théatre de la Ville, Paris

The soldier, less his armour, shirt and underpants ran all which ways over the set, making sure the audience saw every bit of his swinging and jiggling anatomy, but from then onwards, the work tended to disintegrate and all the people on stage, jumping up and down in their frenzied disco-dance began to be just somewhat tiresome. Boredom set in and it was a pity. Nasser Martin-Gousett, superb dancer that he is, left many in the audience with a nostalgia to re-see all Richard Burton's films, and with the feeling that what they had seen was really rather hollow. This wasn't what the choreographer had intended.


Nasser Martin-Gousset's Péplum (Pop Life II)
Photo: Jean-Pierre Maurin
Photo courtesy of the Théatre de la Ville, Paris

Patricia Boccadoro is dance editor at Culturekiosque.com

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