Have you ever wondered what a jiggy sperm might look like grooving in a club? Thanks to the imagery conjured by Dani Harris- Walters, I need wonder no more. Here was our eager cell, generously reproduced - Nike trainers and all - given courage by liberal libations, to impress those naughty Oestrogen girls! Woody Allen once seemingly cornered the comedy market for embodying sperm but almost fifty years after his film, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex…, Harris- Walters has captured that crown.
Happy Father's Day is a fully-fledged theatrical triumph: a complex solo of brief, dynamic bouts of hip-hop dance embellishing considerable spoken text, comprising Rap poetry, hilarious Rastafarian stand-up - in the guise of Old Father Sperma - and compound biological terminology; the sperm’s journey to ‘crack the egg’ memorably rehearsed as a bus ride to “pussy park”! It was all performed with the engaging and uninhibited charm of a seasoned professional.
The opening works were replete with innovative and stimulating ideas, but in need of an edit. The first, by Michaela Cisarikova, brought a compelling visual appeal to the simple black box, utilising a billowing shroud of golden-green fabric. Jenn Vogtle appears through it, visible from the waist up, the light exploring the topography of her back as Vogtle’s shoulders roll with the fabric’s swell. This beautiful, mysterious creature is joined by two others (Anna Guzak and Cisarikova), moving in sinuous close harmony, their bodies periodically attached by bandages and tape. It is an arresting piece made more so by the enigmatic score of Ross Allchurch.
Sara Green’s BURNT OUT was an impenetrable enigma, as I suspect was its creator’s intention. A work based on her experience of major spinal surgery journeyed from discipline and order (four dancers positioned in squares of light) to mayhem and chaos, as some tried to claw their way up the back wall. The rampant energy of this discordant ending brought the exultant performers close to exhaustion.
What an evening of contrasts! We are swung from the alienation of Sara Green’s BURNT OUT, to Dani Harris Walters’ Happy Father’s Day with its pantomime mood.
The night opens however, with the stage bathed in a billowing gold cloth which is used to great theatrical effect throughout MCDC’s I Love Myself, Do You? The three dancers, move in, through, out and under like multi-limbed sea creatures. Dressed in costumes that suggest corsetry, bandages and seaweeds, they portray a battle for identity, good and evil, control and entrapment with a physicality which is quite breath-taking. Although this was a risky and moving piece of work with moments of both conflict and tenderness it also felt at times disjointed and incoherent. It left me wondering if the question of whether ‘I Love Myself’ can be answered or should be asked at all!
The pitch black of the stage in Sara Green’s BURNT OUT created the illusion of deep outer space, disorientating and weightless. The four dancers wear two-piece suits which are soon discarded to reveal the androgynous costumes of alien creatures. They fall, rise, collapse, rise again in response to some internal anguish that we are not yet privy to see. As order descends into chaos the stage lightens to reveal a wall, which the poor tormented creatures try repeatedly to scale in a futile attempt at escape. They are indeed burnt out as the title suggests and there is little to lighten the mood.
It is with some relief that we are welcomed in to the more hopeful world of Dani Harris-Walters’ story of a sperm cell. He talks us through the tale fusing Hip Hop dance, animation, music and text. An engaging story teller he encourages the audience to egg him on and indeed we do, urging him on every step of the way whooping and cheering. Although light hearted and funny this was evidently a well thought out piece of work and made some serious comments about fatherhood which will stay in my mind.