Review: Wasteland at Contact is “raw, impassioned and brutal”

Gary Clarke’s Wasteland marks the 25th anniversary of the Grimethorpe Colliery demolition, bringing a raw, impassioned vision of the economic and immoral brutality, and the resulting devastation.

Alongside this, we are presented with the radical and seismic surge of the rave scene, and the pounding protests that wouldn’t back down.

The performance zeros in on a father-son relationship, drawing parallels between the silent affliction and despondency of the father due to the demolition of the mines, and the eruption of energy from the son as he is subsumed into the rave scene.

The performance radiates the generational torment that took place in the 90s, as one tries to break free from the other, clinging to both nostalgia, and the future, and learning to coexist in a drastically changed society.

Both stories are rich in history and emotion, confluent in their fight for their rights, clinging onto community, and battling a generational upheaval; this is conveyed through, acclaimed British choreographer, Gary Clarke’s spectacular choreography, which is chock-full of life, emotion, hopelessness, frustration, love, fear, and trauma.

Parsifal James Hurst, Robert Anderson, Emily Thompson Smith, Patricia Langa, Jake Evans and Shelley Eva Haden convey all of this and more through their dance moves which are filled with emotional content.

The archived footage brought the period to life on stage, highlighting the real-life workers who suffered the aftereffects of the demolition, whilst also exposing the deep community connection that was severed due to the demolition.

Ryan Dawson Laight’s minimal, and extremely expressive, set design is both perfectly reflective of the desolation and despair in the father’s life, and the vastness of the new possibilities that the empty warehouses brought to ravers; The evocative lighting ensures you face the dark, and forcibly puts you in the corner as it highlights key moments that stick with you throughout the show.

From pumping rave music that might just give you an urge to get up there yourself, to the brass musicians that score crucial moments in the father and son’s situations, and this drops you right in the middle of the story.

Not only does Wasteland give a voice to the individual, and completely unjust experiences of these mine workers, along with the fight for freedom and community in the rave scene, we witness this through a looking glass on the current generational split, 25 years later and the effect is mesmerising.

Wasteland is at Contact until Friday 3rd February and can be booked here.


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