VOID (4 stars)

This article is from 2018


credit: Jack Wrigley

Dangerous, despairing experimental dance based loosely on JG Ballard's Concrete Island

Mele Broomes is tapping into something primal, maybe partly unconscious, definitely centuries deep when she unleashes her rage in this 45-minute study of crippled, then apoplectic movement.

Based loosely on JG Ballard's 1974 Concrete Island – the middle book in his urban dystopia trilogy with Crash at the start and High Rise at the end – the short novel looks at one well-off white man's attempts to escape from a derelict industrial estate, after he was injured in a car crash which catapulted him from the motorway onto a traffic island beside it.

Although the other two books have had film adaptations (the first was David Cronenberg's messed up look at open wound fetishes, the second was Ben Wheatley's take on London class war and anarchy against a beautifully brutalist concrete backdrop), this one hasn't made it to the big screen yet. (Christian Bale was lined up for a movie version a few years ago, but it fell through.)

So the collaborative team of Mele Broomes (V/DA) and Dav Bernard and Bex Anson (MHz) joined with dramaturg Lou Cope to reimagine Concrete Island with a black female main character. Broomes' writhing and spasming after the car accident could be any injured human's, but it's not until she screams out a panicked, 'See me!', to the oblivious car drivers zooming past that her invisibility takes on a more sinister meaning. Black radical writers Stefano Harney and Fred Noten made chilling observations of fugitivity and blackness in their 2013 essay, 'The Undercommons', which helped inspire VOID, and give Broomes some direction for her movements, which evolve from paralysis to survival and defiance.

Watching Broomes hobbled and snapped-ankled, glitching and fizzing to life like the neon moving video behind her is a visceral, troubling thing. But she's in a low gear compared to her later wigouts, furiously chucking her limbs and neck towards the ground or the chicken wire fence behind her, which is rigged up to contact mics, which clatter and scream with every pent-up cartwheel and high kick she lets loose.

Dangerous, despairing experimental dance, where ragdoll weakness tries to find a riotous way up and out, towards resilience.

Summerhall, until 26 Aug (not 20), 7.20pm, £10 (£8).


  • 4 stars

V/DA and MHz, in association with Feral Based on JG Ballard's cult novel Concrete Island, Void meshes experimental dance and abstract glitch-video landscapes. Taking in typically Ballardian themes of dystopian worlds, liminal spaces and urban paranoia, Mele Broomes performs risk-taking choreography to the backdrop of an…