I hate football. The hype, the overpaid players, the celebrity culture. The beautiful game? You can keep it. So imagine my surprise when a fifty-five (not ninety) minute dance work managed to capture my attention and retain it for (most of) the duration. This was Pierre Rigal’s Game Over, or Arrêts de Jeu, a French dance theatre production supported by the UK French Institute.
Rigal, himself, performs in the piece alongside two fellow Frenchmen, Benoit Canteteau and Itamar Glucksmann, with female presence from tomboy Eléna Borghese. It’s kick-off and we’re plunged into complete darkness. As silence fills the air, the senses are temporarily gone and one can’t help but feel uneasy. Thankfully, we’re quickly reunited with civilisation through the medium of technology on the count of eight ultra-bright rectangles which are suspended from the ceiling. Well, not exactly. With the stage still in black-out, it’s the four performers who are moving them, two in each hand, and to the crackle of audio commentary (à la Française with English subtitles) these begin to project the game in question.
As oafish men, the performers lounge about in front of the telly to catch the match, and oafish men on the pitch too, re-enacting laddish behaviour – pointing, swearing, grimacing, larking about – settling disputes with referee with very little contact with the ball. A somewhat accurate depiction perhaps? Either way, their mannerisms and interaction with each other, are well-timed and believable and have the audience in stitches.
Rigal deploys the use of slow motion, just like the action replays on screen, to hone in on how the players work together as a sports team. This second-by-second analysis keeps us, the audience, very much in the heart of the action although, having said that, there are moments of uncertainty, for me at least, and gaps form in my understanding of the narrative. Yes, I had read the rather lengthy programme notes prior to the performance and this did indeed help contextualise the piece somewhat – we’re in 1982 apparently, the year of the France vs. West Germany game – but Game Over still functions without this background knowledge. Why, it converted this non-believer, didn’t it?