Micro @ Gate Theatre, London

performed by
Mélanie Chartreux, Malik Djoudi, Gwenal Drapeau, Julien Lepreux

choreographed and directed by
Pierre Rigal

Pierre Rigal’s follow up to his wonderful solo show Press, also staged at the Gate, is a curious hybrid. Part garage jam, part dance piece, part something else entirely, its at times inspired, at times a bit directionless. Described by Rigal as a physical concert, Micro is like a rock gig in which the performers are as likely to play each other as their instruments. The tiny Gate stage has been equipped with drum kit, guitars, keyboards and amplifiers, while the band takes the form of a charismatic quartet of French performers, three men and one woman, all clad in black vintage rock T-shirts: Bowie and the Ramones.

In between more straightforwardly performed songs there are sequences in which the group, Mélanie Chartreux, Malik Djoudi, Gwenael Drapeau and Julien Lepreux, use one another as human xylophones and turn the demo instructions on the keyboard into a kind of free-form riff. Theres a nice line in wit running through the piece, which is full of inventive instances of physical comedy. Chartreux’s spike-heeled sandals are used as drums and, in one memorable routine, they split into pairs, using alternate arms to play their instruments. It’s made to look effortless but clearly requires a superb level of musicianship and timing.

The choreography revolves totally around the instruments and the music gives the piece its pulse. The merging of the performer with their instrument is a recurring theme, given full weight in a welcome encore where the drummer seems almost as if he is possessed, giggling as he runs around the stage in a kind of drumming frenzy. The instruments are repeatedly used as masks, rendering the performer faceless as they play, half man, half guitar.

From a slow beginning, in which the performers emerge from behind their equipment, crawling on to the stage – a kind of a birth the piece builds like any gig, the songs getting stronger, taking over.

Not everything works; theres some slightly wonky robot dancing, an overlong air guitar sequence, and the piece as a whole, goes on a bit too long, but taken on its own unique terms this is a memorable and inventive show. It might not share the same wealth of ideas as the compelling and intense Press, but Micro is an exciting and energetic merging of forms, performed with real wit and skill.

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