Politics coursed through the trio of works presented at Friday night’s Resolution, which bristled with opinion and confrontation. Róisín O’Brien chose to take on Donald Trump in Some People Say. Katie Armstrong and Christina Liddell, in black suits on a shadow-filled stage, adopted the exaggerated gestures and threatening machismo of the US president as a dystopian soundtrack distorted one of his “Make America great again” speeches. From behind this mask of movement, a neurotic, suspicious, writhing Trump sometimes appeared – by the end the pair revolved back to back, suggesting these aspects were two sides of the coin. Armstrong and Liddell performed with polish, their stuttering moves conjuring up malfunction and breakdown. But, against such a grossly larger-than-life character, this attack felt rather reticent.
Body Politic went for the personal – and dealt a body-blow with Father Figurine, combining Stephen Brown and Derek Mok’s choreography with Isaac Ouro-Gnao’s spoken word poetry. Ouro-Gnao was the confused son trying to understand what had torn his family apart; Tobi Oduntan was the father trying to hold off despair by not talking about what had happened to his wife. Their staccato hip-hop dance skilfully revealed raging but contained emotion, the performers’ mirror movements a heartbreaking reflection of them feeling the same things, but being unable to tell each other. Physical struggle dissolved into a closing moment of hope – but this was a profoundly visceral reflection of the damage wrought by suppressed emotions and masculine silence.
Kaia Goodenough went for in-yer-face provocation with Reclaim the word slut! Her trio of performers kept up a barrage of commentary, on Chaucer, Lisbeth Salander and fairytale characters, swapped random phrases between themselves and shouted out modern-day women’s demands. All the while they switched between suggestive poses and manic whirling round the stage, and being preoccupied with tiny pairs of sparkly evening shoes, which they tried, Ugly Sister-like, to cram on their feet. Tossing the shoes aside looked like a joyful rejection of the notion women should all want to be a princess – and Danielle Summers’s red-knickers-revealing bicycling handstand was a fitting up-yours finale. But it did all feel rather like being hit with a mallet.
Róisín O’Brien’s research explores two contradictory images of Donald Trump. Admired by some, criticized by many, the USA President’s personality has sparked a stream of divided opinions. “Make America Great Again” resonates in the background while Christina Liddell moves with extreme confidence reflecting Trump’s immense ego, particularly in the wide arm gestures. Katie Armstrong’s jittery and tense phrases bring to the foreground a paranoid and neurotic figure, emphasised by a stammering effect on Trump’s voice. Two personalities collide and entangle at the end in one single vivid image. The powerful expressive ability of both dancers suggests the potential to stretch the topic and exaggerate the absurdity of the character even further.
In Father Figurine the combination of spoken word and hip-hop dance reveals the fragile relationship between father and son, as a result of a trauma. Unexpressed thoughts and the inability to communicate uncover a sequence of suffered dance movements where the pain is captured and thrown out violently. It’s a struggle that leads them to a fight that ends with a hint of emotional contact. Tobi Oduntan and Isaac Ouro-Gnao manage to powerfully express the complexity of such feelings creating a very strong connection with the audience. In their gestures nothing is left to the imagination, it’s all there on stage – troubled and real.
Reclaim the Word Slut! sees three women pronouncing alternately random phrases like “I’m the most admirable slut / It’s my choice if you’re gonna hurt me” while executing articulated dance sequences and interacting with tiny colourful shoes that remind us of Cinderella. In a vivacious and visually effective flow each dancer takes their own space to evoke a personal experience with incredible theatrical expressivity. This piece is strongly performed, a real surprise! By taking back the word “slut” and using it with a positive connotation, it claims the right for women to decide what’s good or bad, right or wrong.