Charge | Motionhouse | Birmingham Hippodrome: A Review

Medstars watched the electrifying production of Charge at Birmingham’s Hippodrome, created and performed by West Midlands dance company Motionhouse. The mesmerising multimedia show, inspired by the role of electricity in the human body, follows the story of energy in our lives and combines science and dance to depict scenes of human desire to the beating of our hearts.

Advert for Motionhouse's Charge, Birmingham Hippodrome
Motionhouse’s Charge at Birmingham Hippodrome

Glimpse of Science Behind the Scenes

Following the conception of Charge, Kevin Finnan (Artistic Director) met with Professor Frances Ashcroft, who researches ion channels to find out how they contribute to diabetes. Ashcroft and her team at Oxford University informed Finnan of the nuances of electricity in the human body.

Prior to the performance, Ashcroft educated audience members of the science behind the scenes, stating ‘humans are electrical machines.’ Ashcroft emphasised the importance of ion channels, stating ‘they govern everything we do’. The mutation of ion channels can result in diseases such as diabetes, cystic fibrosis, myotonia congenita and long QT syndrome (LQTS). LQTS is a condition that increases the risk of an irregular heartbeat which, in turn, can result in fainting, drowning, or sudden death. Ashcroft briefed the audience of one case in which a man suffering with LQTS died from laughing so much. So, cue light bulb moment, it seems you really can die from laughter! Frances also explained how ion channels interfere with pain sensation and are therefore the target for many therapeutic drugs. For example, local anaesthetic blocks sodium channels which Frances rightly emphasises, ‘we should all be very grateful for!’

Ashcroft explored the historical understanding of the role of electricity in the body, beginning with the work of Italian scientist Luigi Galvani. In 1791, Galvani discovered that an electrical charge could cause a frog’s leg to twitch. Galvani’s nephew, Giovanni Galvani, carried out similar public experiments on decapitated criminals, which Ashcroft suggests was the ‘inspiration for mad, bad and invariably male scientists’ implying it was popular interest in electricity that influenced Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’.

Ashcroft has published ‘The Spark of Life’ exploring the role of electricity in the human body and is recognised for her contributions to the public understanding of science.

Preshow presentation given by Professor Frances Ashcroft
Preshow presentation given by Professor Frances Ashcroft whose favourite toxin is grayanotoxin found in nature’s honeytrap

Plug Yourself in for an Electrifying Performance

Galvani’s twitching frogs legs are recreated during the early scenes of Charge, much to Medstars delight. Six exceptional performers enter the stage wearing white laboratory coats, superbly mimicking the jerky movements of frog’s legs as electricity passes through them. Behind them, the multimedia show unfolds with an array of laboratory equipment, namely test tubes, flashing across the screen engulfing a rogue frog who is seemingly exploring the backdrop.

Charge then delves into the concept of human desire, with a fascinating depiction of lust, attraction and sexuality centred around the pull of electricity, as embodied by two of the phenomenal female performers who are initially drawn to each other but find their attraction is ultimately dictated by electricity. The simplicity of the lighting captures the audiences full attention, reinforcing the power of electricity in the human body whilst contributing to a wholly mesmerising performance.

The final scenes of Charge include a heart-stopping portrayal of the beating of our hearts, concluding with an exhilarating representation of cardiac arrest. The performers become one, holding each other up with their remarkable core strength as they manifest as the human heart, emulating the assault on the vital organ with their synchronised fast-paced movement, becoming evidently more frantic as the scene gathers momentum.

Charge is an exhilarating performance not to be missed and Medstars can’t wait to see what Motionhouse creates next!

Excited Medstars colleague after watching Motionhouse's Charge
Medstars colleague after an electrifying performance

Find out more about Charge and Motionhouse, including future tour dates, here.

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