Originally posted to broadwaybaby.com
I can guarantee that you aren’t ready for For Only An Hour, the brain- and body- and life- and love- child of dancer Phil Sanger. I don’t know that there’s any art out there that could prepare you. But I can equally guarantee that it is the most creative piece of work I have ever seen.
Sanger ricochets around genres and disciplines throughout the hour-long piece, swinging in an effortless instant from lip-syncing to capital-D Dance to storytelling to lowercase-d dance to song to comedy to history and back again. For Only An Hour is steeped in the history and atmosphere of queer performance, and like all the best of that genre, refuses to simplify its brilliant collage of every art form you can imagine into something that can be catagorised or pinned down. From a beautiful childhood memory to a (no spoilers) iconic dance routine with devastating consequences – and no, not the ones you’re imagining, I guarantee it – For Only An Hour traverses the length and breadth of Sanger’s experience as a flamboyant gay man from Barnsley as well as the limits of every medium he chooses.
I could tell you that he never slows down, but that would be a lie – it’s just that the moments he does are so perfectly paced that you it doesn’t feel like it. I could tell you the smile never slips from his face but that would be misleading – it’s just that even in the midst of the worst moments, there is that bitter optimism that queer art (and life) all but requires. I could say his energy never drops, but that would do him a disservice – it’s just that the physical exertion and exhaustion is as intimately necessary to the piece as the exuberance and physical expression that brings it about.
And while Sanger is alone on stage, filling a vast studio all on his own, he is not alone in this endeavor at all. Joining him are lighting designer Jen Wren and composer Donna McKevitt, whose work contains and facilitates some of the most hauntingly beautiful moments of the show. It’s almost possible to forget that Sanger isn’t literally controlling the cut together recordings of classic songs and bits of old diva interviews and scenes with his body, which makes sense given that he created the tracks himself.
Sanger is a powerful dancer, a beautiful singer, and an easy stage presence which I believe would let anyone, of any sexuality or gender, of any age, of any walk of life, of any level of experience with queerness or dance or performance art, into the same rapturous experience I and the rest of the audience had. His closing number, stripped of the beautiful costumes and the continuous motion and the intense lighting and every other element besides Sanger and his voice and his presence, was a slightly rewritten parody of the song which supplied the title, released by Scott Walker in in 1968. It’s funny, it’s jaunty – it’s not sad. But I sat there, tears in my eyes. It felt like coming home.
I'm Alex, a theatre-maker based in the Bay Area with an outpost in Edinburgh, Scotland.