I don’t mind being told what to think, but I object to being told what I am thinking. The fundamental flaw in Luca Silvestrini’s flailing investigation into English attitudes to multiculturalism is encapsulated in the repeated mantra: “I think you think that…”
Consequently, what might have been a powerful and provocative statement is reduced to a chain of howling cliches. Sometimes, this is the point - the use of song lyrics from China Girl to Ebony and Ivory and the social awkwardness of two cultures colliding is conveyed with ironic humour. But subsequent sequences are crude and bruisingly blunt.
It is a pity as there is so much to admire in Silvestrini’s work which has a vivacity and immediacy that one rarely encounters. Ranged around four sides of the performing space, the audience members are spectators in a gladiatorial arena. The performers - core members of Protein augmented by dancers from various ethnic backgrounds - act out a series of scenarios designed to expose the condescending and patronising attitudes of the English towards Johnny Foreigner; the target is not outright racism but the benign bigotry that arises from a well-intentioned paternalism allegedly embedded in the nation’s DNA.
With Stuart Walters running amok as the emcee of a kind of immigrant game show, talking to guests of various ethnicity with cartoonish condescension, the action develops in bursts of physical movement. Dancers address the audience - asking questions, revealing bits of their background - before engaging in explosive sequences of pure dance illustrating cross-cultural misunderstandings which descend from bludgeoning humour into violence. The climactic melee is thunderously exciting - Hofesh Schechter meets The Tower of Babel. But the work is far too generalised and employs too many stereotypes to make a lasting impact.