Interact

16 February 2017
Author: Ruby Embley & Lyndsey Winship

Wed 15 Feb: Susan Kempster and Nicholas Minns/TenOverSix/Scatterlings

Susan Kempster & Nicholas Minns Black Widow (on dying and the art of not complaining)

TenOverSix Unwinding I

Scatterlings All Over & Everywhere

‘Do you think they get it...?' Susan Kempster and Nicholas Minns's hushed whispers boom through the blackout. They inch through different angular positions, dressed in macabre, funereal dresses. Black Widow (on dying and the art of not complaining) is an intimate conversation on the commodification of the arts. Kempster's eyes watchfully flick between Minns and the audience as she speaks; conspiratorial and questioning. The two paint themselves as black widow spiders, dance artists being consumed by the system, like the male spider is consumed by the female. It's a tenuous connection and they subtly play with the silliness of it with deliciously sharp timing and self-awareness.

Unwinding I is a sinister exploration of fragmented personality, without a trace of Black Widow's humour. Initially Ruxandra Chealru's muscular movements are lit only by her handheld torch. The light bounces around leaving us disoriented, unsettled. Disembodied female voices skip through Amy Robinson's script. Chealru matches the jittery, unpredictable rhythm of the voice-over perfectly while Katharine Le Roux stalks shark-like around her. The angst sometimes feels over the top, but mostly these are powerful, confident performances that leave us with a burgeoning sense of unease.

The humour returns in All Over and Everywhere, but again there are darker underlying themes. Five dancers of multiple nationalities playfully explore their feelings about borders, the refugee crisis, and their ’Post-Brexit Blues’. There is a joyful optimism here, the dancers create their own ‘non-binary, borderless republic’ and erupt into floor stomping, grin inducing folk dance. Clever moments include the ritualistic worship of a British Passport and a movement section that is clearly a mashup of gestures, recognisable from different cultures. It’s self-aware too, cleverly avoiding the ‘happy- clappy’ trap. Isabel Brittain gently reminds us of our tendency to hide from the horrors of the world: ’You can’t learn with your eyes closed, or in a … tree pose…’ This is political and playful dance theatre that brilliantly captures the mood of the moment.

Ruby Embley


 

Spoken text forms the spine of all tonight's pieces at Resolution. In Black Widow, it's delivered in the softly questioning voice of Susan Kempster and her arty-farty foil Nicholas Minns, both dressed amusingly in black dresses and fascinators, demonstrating two sides of the artist's life: Minns muses emotionally over a bird outside his window, while Kempster laments the box-ticking bureaucracy of creative survival. It's a solipsistic theme, but that's apt in a piece that's ultimately about (the futility of) complaining about one's lot. It's also a funny sketch with a distinct identity.

The text in writer/choreographer Amy Robinson's Unwinding I is delivered live by two actors in the wings, words rushing breathily into the mic as dancer Ruxandra Chelaru's agitated body is snagged on the sounds of accents and consonants, nerves twitching, body flickering, chest gasping. It's like the inevitable swell of a panic attack, accompanied by the soundtrack of voices in our protagonist's head, driving her to distraction. A second dancer slowly circles her, observing, but it seems a redundant role – detracting, in fact, from Chelaru's strong performance.

"A wetsuit washed up in Norway but bought in the Calais Decathlon." Those are the words that open All Over & Everywhere, and in that sentence a whole global tragedy is contained. But it's all credit to creators/performers Scatterlings that they handle this heavy theme with a light touch, shifting tone easily from poignant to joyful, from comic theatricality to a multi-ethnic jig. We see the dichotomies of travel as leisure versus travel as necessity; the tent as a symbol of adventure and one of survival. Here, the EU passport is a precious talisman, desired and devoured by those without. Wide-eyed idealism seems both embraced and, I think, gently mocked and the company's rough-edged exuberance is endearing. A very promising debut.

Lyndsey Winship

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