“Sinner” cracks open the mind of a homophobe
In “Sinner,” two guys who look like they just walked out of an English pub, as my friend from Gravesend, U.K. remarked, tell the story of a man—one man. Though the duo engage in sometimes intense physical contact—a combative series of manipulative pulls, pushes, and grabs—this is all really just a reflection of one man’s inner turmoil. The character is derived from real events—the bombing of the Admiral Duncan, a London gay bar, in 1999 that killed two people. What would motivate someone to do such a thing? Well, one popular theory is that the worst homophobes are really just afraid of their own homosexuality, and here that theory is played out to perfection, with text as rhythmic and carnal as the movement, with which it is expertly integrated. What begins with a kind of masculine contact improvish series of flips brilliantly descends into a physically and emotionally charged dance theater work about the roots of hatred—and self-discovery. “Sinner” lays bare the fractured ego of a hater, homophobe, racist; reared on the vapid fare of suburban life, he welcomes hate in place of the nothing. It is, he explains, an ordinary feeling.
Co-artistic direcor of the creative team Stan Won’t Dance, Liam Steel is absolutely extraordinary as the would-be bomber—totally believable when he is expressing nervousness, curiosity, new found liberating queerness, or raging hate. Ben Wright as his would-be lover, his confident, comfortable alter-ego provides the catalyst for all the tension. The piece as a whole is thoroughly engaging, the choreographic choices —repeating phrases and formations — and devices are intelligently placed and timed; variations in movement phrases are accompanied by analogous shifting or condensing of text.
Humor is often used, effectively to release the dramatic tension; but at a certain, chilling point, it recedes.
Ruth Finn’s set design evokes the pub post-blast, with chairs hanging from the ceiling and attached to the pillars of P.S. 122’s main space, tables and more chairs strewn about the floor. Lots of hazer action with Ian Scott’s lighting design, and playful shadow video by Whitehouse Pictures with Matt Spencer gave the theater a clublike, publike feel—dark, dank, sexy, and dangerous.
Ben Payne is credited with the idea for “Sinner” as well as the excellent text. Rob Tannion, the other co-director of Stan Won’t Dance, directed and choreographed along with Steel. God Save the Queen!