Smack That (a conversation) review – the fight against domestic abuse 

Domestic abuse is not a comfortable subject for a dance piece, but choreographer Rhiannon Faith likes to take her work into such hard-to-navigate realms. Scary Shit (2016), her best-known piece, directed an unblinking gaze at two women’s phobias, sexual insecurities and loneliness, while Smack That (a conversation) introduces us to six real-life survivors of sustained psychological and physical violence. The work is presented in the round. We are at a party of sorts. There are balloons and presents. There’s dancing and pass the parcel. But every tableau, once unwrapped, leads us back to the same dark place, to the lethally aimed fist and the calculated shattering of personality.

The six performers are all called Bev, in wry homage to the Mike Leigh play Abigail’s Party. They all wear platinum wigs and sparkly mid-thigh dresses. They verbalise their brutalisation at the hands of their male partners (“You’re a piece of crushed scum… dead waste”) and they embody it. To a melancholy score directed by Molly O’Brien, we see the six Bevs propelled across the floor in flailing leaps, doubling up from blows to the face and belly (women are most likely to be the victims of domestic abuse when pregnant), hyperventilating, shuddering and collapsing. They run around wild-eyed, clutching their crotches. “Smack that bitch up,” one screams, perhaps referring to the similarly titled 1997 dance track by the Prodigy [ . . . ]

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