I find Egon Schiele’s sketches and paintings strikingly unapologetic. They seem to command your attention whilst simultaneously disdaining it - sneering at your compulsion to stare even as they force you into voyeurism.
A scene from The Featherstonehaughs Draw on the Sketchbooks of Egon Schiele at Riverside Studios, London Photo: Lea Anderson
To convincingly bring such idiosyncratic and often paradoxical qualities to life is a remarkable feat, yet The Featherstonehaughs succeed with astonishing panache. From the dandyish, dishevelled suits by Oscar-winning Sandy Powell through to the grotesque, clownish make-up and invasive rock music, every detail announces Schiele’s uncompromising attitude and disturbing allure.
Choreographically, the piece is a marathon of iconic poses with seamless interludes.
Dressed alternately as suited artist and naked muse (in beautifully crafted body stockings), the dancers morph from one twisted Schiele shape to another like a slideshow, their tiny shifts in movement - angles accentuated, fingers split, a head turned - evoking the uber-controlled motion of Japanese Butoh performers or the flow of models at work in a photographic studio.
We are glared at from the outset - at times as though we merely act as a mirror for their vain parade, at others as though our presence is deliciously unwelcome. It is perhaps these unyielding, accusatory looks that make the piece so distinctively characteristic of Schiele’s attitude - these alongside the casually draped-open legs and nonchalant displays of genitalia painted on to the body suits.
I can think of no company more suited to bringing Schiele’s sketches to life than The Featherstonehaughs and though I found their recent work, Edits, disappointing in execution, the genius of this piece makes the recent 100% cut to their funding from Arts Council England seem criminal.