Israeli-born choreographer Jasmin Vardimon founded her company 10 years ago – to mark the event, she has choreographed a new piece, called simply Yesterday, a resetting of selected scenes from her body of work. Vardimon, though, is much too tough for nostalgia: this is less a trip down memory lane than a series of blasts from her past. In the opening – to a pounding beat and backed by a screen buzzing with eye-scorching televisual static – the eight dancers scuffle, reel, launch upwards and dive downwards, all in strict formation. The hard-hitting, attention-grabbing combination of anarchic energy with military discipline pins us to our seats.
Now she can show us her stuff. And that reveals two special strengths. She is good at putting metaphors into material form. Luke Burrough and Mafalda Deville play a doctor and patient whose particularly vicious pillow-fight perfectly poses a troubling question: does treating sickness become attacking the sick? Another scene links flag-waving to the broader cultural climate: Burrough makes a blustering, nationalist speech, and his wantonly brandished English flag sends the dancers scudding and tumbling, as if buffeted by storms.
Secondly, Vardimon is also inventive with visual technology, often superimposing relayed images onto live action. For a piece dealing with memory, this is particularly suggestive; nowhere more so than the thermal screen that bears the shadows of bodies pressed against it, or the fading imprint of words and scribbles.
But a retrospective of this kind exposes weaknesses as well as strengths. Even more than with most physical theatre, there is a rag-tag feel: several scenes really need more thematic context, and by the end, the anarcho-militarist format feels like a formula. Still, Yesterday clearly hit the spot for its vociferous and largely very youthful audience.