Words by Jodie Nunn.

THE REVENGE OF POPPERFACE is the first instalment of the POPPERFACE Trilogy, the brain-child of choreographer and Horizon 2023 Artist, Gareth Chambers. Chambers isn’t one to shy away from the dark and dejected. Vicious maroon undercurrents raptured from the depths of the horror genre awash his choreographic underworld; REVENGE revels in the pits of Chambers’ choreographed cacophony of class, queer masculinity, and libertarianism.

Dissected into three acts, REVENGE offers a complete quick trip. The subsequent comedown is heavy, the weight of subject matter seeps into the bloodstream. The atmospheric trance begins outside the auditorium. Cathedral Hygiene’s soundscape throbs, a nod to the discography of French disco-pioneer, Amanda Lear. The voyeured enter; a suited man leans against the racked seating, a degree of nonchalance, death oscillates the iris. The accompaniment whirs, growing and going unnoticed. The negative space in staging and movement only further fuels the haze. Clad in stretched black-tarpaulin, the space boasts a basement-like ambience. Themes of ritual and the divine realm are suggested via the placement of two golden goblets and fragrant incense upstage, framing the mound of tossed-tarp, an altar.

The piece commences, the wailing undercurrents of ritual and religion at the forefront, as Richard Pye and Joseph Grey Adams bow before the altar, spinal cords undulating through thick air. Their movements waver between vaporous and viscous. Gurning and glitching, Pye charges through the space, manipulating our attention and their ridged business suit; the viscosity of the dark air is sliced as their splayed fingers coil and splinter. Internal struggle, flailing limbs, each cyclical thrashing is dragged back to centre; a contorted torso, spiralling with a skulking force, spiked by a strong manipulation of breath. Adams dictates the space with grace and grit, in moments of stillness their impressive presence most eerily pertinent. In expression and stance, the wracked innerworkings of a complex mind are teased.

A potent play on power dynamics, already unclothed, Pye undresses Adams, never averting their eyes. Movements slip into the sultry and sumptuous with the musculature of the unclad bodies sculpting each gesture. Teetering with tension, Pye and Adams shatter their stillness as they begin to wrestle, pinning one another to the tarpaulin.

A new movement landscape is imagined. Blood-soaked bodies, flesh-to-flesh, Pye and Adams roll over one another; their bodies melting, sliding across the tarpaulin, birthing a new movement vocabulary. Languishing in seas of deep maroon, the pair slip into a hypnotic rhythm, a bloody entanglement, foetal-like. Metamorphosing into a stature akin to that of Frankenstein; the texture of this new movement vocabulary is palpable and pliable. Pye and Adams envelop one another, suffocating under the red-district bulbs. The reveal of Popperface: uncovered from his tarp-tomb, Chambers undulates, slithering beneath the second-hand smoke. Snaking to standing, all three bathe in the dissonances of Hygiene’s now overcoming soundscape. The past fifty minutes evaporate as the lights fade to black; silence spikes the auditorium. Enrapturing and entrancing, REVENGE commands space and time. Ritual and religion, life and death: throbbing beneath the skin these themes pulsate with a raging intensity.

You can find out more about THE REVENGE OF POPPERFACE / Gareth Chambers here.