By Elizabeth Waind
For many of the slightly less philosophical minded of us, when it comes to art, dance and theatre, the word ‘contemporary’ can draw images of bizarre performances and works of art that can only be understood with hours of deep contemplation.
However, with their tragi-comic performance, ‘A Snowball’s Chance in Hell’, staged at Aarhus’ BORA BORA theatre, Danish visual theatre company, Don Gnu, prove that contemporary can be humorous, charming and relatable for all.
‘A Snowball’s Chance in Hell’ is a story of human failure; as the title suggests, sometimes failure is inevitable. Inspired by silent movies, the performance combines dance, physical theatre, film and slapstick to create a charming story of two characters – ‘Don’ and ‘Gnu’, choreographed and played by Jannik Elkaer and Kristoffer Louis Andrup Pedersen – who face failure together.
Thus, it is not only a story of failure, but also of how we rely upon one another to hold us up when we fall. This is portrayed brilliantly by Elkaer and Pedersen, who are closely choreographed and make a fantastic duo – they rely on successful teamwork in order to execute their often complex sequences.
The show begins with the pair coming out of the sea to discover the world on land. We follow as they clumsily find their way – first uncovering an intriguing and slightly misleading wooden standing camera – with a mix of slapstick and dance, interspersed with film created by Christoffer Brekner, director of dramaturgy and visual media for Don Gnu. The story is thus unveiled through a combination of different yet interconnected mediums, which makes for a diverse and engaging performance.
‘A Snowball’s Chance in Hell’ is cleverly and humorously choreographed. One particularly ingenious moment involves a jacket passing from the arms of one to those of the other, and back again, in a confusing and yet perfectly orchestrated tangle.
Of course, comedy relies upon the comedians, and as with silent movies, the lively expressions of Elkaer and Pedersen successfully draw the laughs of the audience. Sound effects are well timed and executed to successfully accompany movements and expressions, and interaction with the audience adds a more personal touch to the performance.
The minimalist stage setting – made up of a black backdrop, two canvas video screens, two spotlights and an old wooden standing camera – allows the attention to remain on the movements of Elkaer and Pedersen. And their old-style suits keep us in silent movie mode.
‘A Snowball’s Chance in Hell’ provides a refreshing, comic take on contemporary dance and visual theatre; a delightful performance to tease out the laughs in us all.
‘A Snowball’s Chance in Hell’ will show at Aarhus’ BORA BORA theatre until November 25. For tickets, visit the BORA BORA website. Keep up-to-date with future performances, as well as other projects by Don Gnu, on their website. Read more: A preview and interview.