Hell in Heels: 420People’s ‘Inferno’

Hell in heels / Hell on wheels describes the discomfort of facing problems of middle age, in 420People's latest production, at the Roxy NoD Theatre.

Hell in heels / Hell on wheels describes the discomfort of facing problems of middle age, in 420People’s latest production, at the Roxy NoD Theatre.

‘Hell on wheels’ is the idiom describing someone who behaves in a difficult way – which certainly applies to the movement in 420People’s new production.

420People’s latest show, Inferno, Dante’s Variations (Peklo, Dantovské Variace) lives up to its billing as an experimental performance. Peklo was inspired by Dante’s Inferno and his observations of hell. And the company describes the piece as “A tragicomic parable on a human fight with sorrow, boredom, and lazyness that sneak into our lives with middle age.”

The result at the NoD Theater premiere Sept 30 was a blend of spoken-word poetry, dance, and acting through a wide range of emotions.

This is not purely a dance performance. Much of the show includes monologues in Czech, meaning that an international audience will miss a lot of the message, but certain hellish themes, such as body image and the difficulty of relationships, come through loud and clear.

The show opens with a table, bare except for a head of cabbage and bunch of carrots, and two folding chairs for guest stars David Prachař and Lucie Trmíková. Members of 420People join them as a sort of Greek chorus with simple movements, as the parental figures recite lines and move their chairs farther apart to the opposite ends of the stage.

A real gender bender: Body image and other challenges of middle age are examined in 'Dante's Variations.'

A real gender bender: Body image and other challenges of middle age are examined in ‘Dante’s Variations.’

As the show continues, the movements and the costumes get wilder. 420People, male and female, strip down to black shirts, nude tights, and high heels for the majority of the performance. The scenes range from a night club to a fashion show to an entire sequence whose only movement is facial expressions.

420 People don’t shy away from daredevil moves. In one of the early scenes, a couple cling to each other while climbing a growing stack of small stools, getting closer and closer to the theater’s ceiling.

They’re also not afraid to bare their bodies, with the dancers regularly undressing as part of their movement, challenging the audience to be as comfortable as they are.

Whether doing acrobatic tricks on a rope hanging from the ceiling, or questioning the roles of gender and age, one thing is clear: This company isn’t afraid of anything. — oo

Dante’s Variation by 420People will be repeated Oct 27, Nov 24, and Dec 4, all at Roxy’s NoD Theatre.

— Auburn Scallon, Opus Osm writer

Photo Credits: Fabiana Mertova

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