- The Stage - https://www.thestage.co.uk -

Mercenary review at Battersea Arts Centre, London – ‘football-based dance’

The human cost of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar isn’t so much FIFA’s dirty little secret as an ongoing Amnesty-certified human rights violation. Thousands of migrant workers, housed in sordid accommodation with their passports confiscated, endure substandard labour conditions and extreme heat while constructing vast air-conditioned stadiums for the world’s wealthiest to enjoy.

This is the subject of footballer-turned-dance artist Ahilan Ratnamohan’s Mercenary. It’s an apt title as both adjective and noun, laced with the irony that today’s travelling soldiers of fortune – exploited immigrant labourers – can’t expect much in the way of personal gain. Death, however, remains a real possibility.

A cast of five, including Ratnamohan, use the physicality of football to depict the gruelling reality behind a Qatar 2022 theatre of dreams – the dextrous fancy footwork and pounding rapid-fire steps of a training drill are here given mechanistic uniformity.

A man and a woman, clad in breathing masks, hi-vis jackets and headscarves, manage a fleeting embrace. Snatches of dialogue allude to loneliness, wage discrepancies and rushed toilet breaks. Workwear cast aside, the group seem to find grooving respite in Giulia Loli’s Middle Eastern-infused electronica but before long they’re made inhuman once again, their perspiring bodies manipulated into strange and painful positions.

Kneeling and bent forwards, a man drips sweat into the face of another, lying supine. It’s a shame that these very striking sections are a little undermined by the work’s wandering structure. Greater detail and sharper focus could enhance this piece’s political and personal impact.

In Search of Dinozord review at the Place, London – ‘haunting and harrowing’ [1]

Verdict
Effective but occasionally obscure football-based dance piece about Qatar 2022’s migrant workforce

Production Information

Production
Mercenary
Venue
Battersea Arts Centre
City
London
Starts
June 21, 2018
Ends
June 23, 2018
Press night
June 21, 2018
Composer
Giulia Loli
Director
Ahilan Ratnamohan
Costume
Anne-Catherine Kunz
Cast includes
Ahilan Ratnamohan, Rabina Miya, Thollebook Nhipat, Imanuel Dado, Mahy Nambiai
Producer
LIFT, Battersea Arts Centre
Running time
1hr 10mins