Project O’s Voodoo is all about partiality. For starters, it’s a mutable two-hour show performed four times consecutively, so you only actually experience a quarter of the whole event. Then (at least in the iteration I was at) it soon becomes clear that the show is not primarily about the performers.
Alexandrina Hemsley and Jamila Johnson-Small (“two brown women”) begin behind us, impassive in pale robes and dark glasses, while before us scrolls a list of dated events encompassing anything from a visit to the doctor to the abolition of slavery, the training of dancers and the Iraq war. When the pair do come out front, they cocoon themselves in white sacs, emerging only to parody their role as performers, popping balloons as they swoon about to a Whitney Houston ballad, as if to burst any inflated pretensions.
From there through to the end, the event is mainly about us, collectively and individually. Guided by instructions from a voiceover, we lie on the floor, rise up together, and are initiated into dancing freestyle to an extended sequence of club tracks (techno, drum’n’bass, dancehall and so on), the performers dancing among us like shamanic presences. We become both the players and the played, our experience both shared and subjective: I witnessed abandon, enjoyment, awkwardness, boredom and rank discomfort. Me? I thought the transition from onlooker to participant was very deftly done, but the resulting collective energy felt squandered: the generalised bopping didn’t lead me anywhere, and I didn’t last long in the zone. More voodoo needed?