Work No.1020 at Sadler’s Wells
“I want to feel better, better than I do, I want to feel better, better than you,” recites Martin Creed towards the end of a truly Creedesque evening of ballet, live music, prose and video works. His project Work No.1020 was presented by Sadler’s Wells and Frieze Music as part of a season marking the centenary of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. A Russian impresario, Diaghilev founded the company in 1909 and quickly established a reputation in avant-garde Paris for his use of collaboration between the arts. With his Ballet The Parade (1917) he summoned the rat-pack of the day with a scenario written by Cocteau, music composed by Eric Satie, set and costumes designed by Picasso and programme notes by Apollinaire. With those names in mind, it was never too far fetched an idea to commission Creed to choreograph a ballet.
On stage, we have five female dancers and, in Creed’s own words, the ‘token male’ dancer. At time they are accompanied by Creed’s own band. The building blocks of classical ballet are known as the five poses around which al movements are based. Creed has stripped everything down, rather than build around that principle, so the dancers move in basic ‘shapes’ and only forwards, backwards or sideways. Sometimes a movement is executed forwards then repeated backwards which produces a strange and unreal sensation. Each position is given a musical note too. Sometimes the band plays a song; the dancers come on stage, perform and go off again. There are various idea projections, with titles such as ‘Ass Picture’, ‘Up+Down’ and ‘Orson and Sparky’ (go to the martincreed.com website and look up Work No. 650- it’s great, especially for dog enthusiasts!)
It was surprise to see that Creed himself was so much part of the performance. In fact, he was central to it. He talked the audience through his thought processes on making the piece, sang, and recited poems while pacing up and down the stage. One was never quite sure if his performance was ramshackle ad lib of highly rehearsed, but I reckon the latter is the case. Though a self-professed novice of the ballet , if get like he approached it in exactly the way he does his other work, and Work No.1020 is very much Martin Creed in essence. It is genius in its complicated simplicity, structured in an obsessive fashion, a head-scratcher and very funny at times. He pares down, dissects, analyses the minute and presents it in a clear fashion that puzzles and charms the viewer at the same time.