Zeitgeist (5 stars)

This article is from 2009


This is the first time Australian company, Zen Zen Zo has come to the Fringe, but they’re no blushing debutants. Zeitgeist is a retrospective of their shorter works inspired by the untamed Japanese art form of Butoh. But it’s also a pulse check, a look at how they’ve responded to the mores and issues of the last decade.

The first piece, ‘Unleashed’, shows that this ensemble has absorbed the philosophy of Butoh dance to its core. A dystopian stage-full of shivering, naked human animals evolve slowly, engaging in primal mating rituals with the sort of bestial glee that suggests they might just turn on you at any second.

Although the six pieces that follow include everything from burlesque to performance art, that intrinsic wildness underpins everything, keeping the audience at once perpetually unsettled and thoroughly entertained. Shaken out of your comfort zone? All the better to think with, my dear. Zen Zen Zo will make you laugh and shriek and cringe, but they absolutely refuse to just let you sit passively (NB: don’t wear anything you don’t mind getting, er, messy. I quite literally left with egg on my face).

The most affecting work is simply called ‘Terror’. A dreamy depiction of religious ecstasy, it begins with sinewy, live Arabic song, shifting in the last couple of seconds into an utterly shocking indictment of recent Western foreign policy. To move successfully – and immediately – from such bleakness into a hilarious, kitschy parody of a certain kind of chocolate-fetishising, shrieking femininity, and have neither piece dampen the impact of the other, takes brilliance.

C Chambers Street, 0845 260 1234, until 31 Aug, 10.55pm, £9.50–£11.50 (£8.50–£10.50).


  • 5 stars

Courageous, visually spectacular, emotionally engaging production of raw, provocative dance theatre, inspired by Japanese Butoh, burlesque and cabaret, performed by infamous Australian physical theatre company Zen Zen Zo. Played to packed houses across Australia.