News & Blogs

9 January 2020
Author: Sanjoy Roy & Beth Veitch

Tue 14 Jan: Jacob Elliott Roberts/ Petri Delights/ Luke Birch

Jacob Elliott Roberts Green Mother

Petri Delights Plate 01

Luke Birch Likeness

Jacob Elliott Roberts’ Green Mother is based on a short story he wrote, which is telling – not because of any discernible narrative, but because the performance always seems to have its sights on something else, beyond the stage, beyond even its own scope. Natasha Arcoleo and Evie Oldham are almost archetypal women in green dresses, framing their faces with elegant placements of arms. Moody instrumentals give way to a high-pitched lament as the women separate, Arcoleo juddering with anxiety. Oldham remaining stock still. Finally they interlock into a kind of corporeal rebus of four arms and two faces that gaze, as ever, into the beyond. It’s an intriguing but ungraspable work, its meanings and motivations seeming to lie elsewhere.

Plate 01 dispenses with such intangibles: it’s all about appearance. Against a back projection of wriggly microbes, the stage is set with three apparently inanimate structures that turn out to be outlandish costumes concealing three dancers. One is a seaweedy tangle, set a-shiver by its inner dancer. Another is a kind of cage that splits apart, birthing two beings: a twisty worm-thing with ribbony protrusions, and a garish, shimmering creature with unruly tentacles. The effect is choreographically insubstantial but visually fascinating.

The theme of Luke Birch’s solo Likeness – the relation between movement and words – is murky with ambiguities, but composition and performance are crystal clear. A voiceover reels out phrases – like water, like a bull in a china shop, like it’s 1999 – while Birch, in a stepwise pattern around the stage perimeter, “likens” his gestures to the text, whether in imitation of meaning or rhythm. Plaintive piano replaces voice, and Birch builds a series of spiralling falls, folds and slips, on a strict diagonal. Words return, now likening meanings to those movements. He bundles himself up and rolls like a stone, to Bob Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone – a literalism compromised by the logo on his t-shirt: the famous tongue and lips logo of the Rolling Stones. Likeness is one of those works you could watch all over again, to see how it’s been made as much to savour its effects.

Sanjoy Roy


Two female dancers seduce the audience through unwavering focus, sculpting their bodies with notes of indulgent romantic classicism. Signalled by a flickering light and music transforming from drone to a female choral voice, there is a changing pace. The dancers become undone, charging forwards in dramatic displays of dynamic shifting, spiralling and thrashing limbs. Natasha Arcoleo’s steely focus points inward revealing a wrought pain in her mesmerising distortion of physical convulsions. This culminates with their heads together as though to suggest a codependency as a means of survival. Whilst this work is vague in narrative, Jacob Elliott Roberts has crafted an environment rich in atmospheric tension and texture with potential for deeper exploration.

Plate 01 follows the growth of three tumbleweed, sculpted, sub-human life forms. With a screen backdrop of morphing bacteria and a soundscape of uneasy electronic synth and monstrous moaning, this work presents a world through the microscope. Part scientific-study, part alien club culture, the statement of the work is the avant-garde design by Maggie Campbell and Sonia Odedra. Each sculpture moves with a squirmish, unnerving and yet humorous charm. A figure in a golden catsuit escapes a netted cage, weaving, writhing and wriggling in contrast to another, playfully bounding in unison with a long noodle-like mane. A third tentacled creature moves in a humorous, clumsy fashion. This work is altogether bizarre and yet its peculiarity is absorbing.

Likeness, a solo by Luke Birch, presents a conveyor belt of choreographed metaphor and a symbiosis between physical and spoken language. Pre-recorded sound, a definition turned looping list of imagery, develops into a physical presentation of articulate folding and melting. His movement is careful, considered and seamlessly fluid. He folds into his T-shirt and begins a struggle of rolling to the aptly selected Rolling Stone by Bob Dylan, marking the collusion of conceptualising and becoming and the balancing of witty humour with vulnerability. An articulate dialogue ensues as the stage fades to darkness with the words continuing. I am left to consider that perhaps his actions can speak just as loud as his words. An endearing, well-paced and compelling work.

Beth Veitch

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