Review: Frauke Requardt – Mothers – The Place

Performance: May 31 -June 1 2017
Reviewed by Siobhan Murphy - Friday 2 June 2017

Reviewed Wednesday 31 May

Motherhood is the subject of this latest work from the British-based German choreographer Frauke Requardt. There’s nothing cosy and comforting here, though: created with her fellow performers Neil Callaghan and Jacob Ingram-Dodd, _Mothers_is an hour of often quite startling weirdness, a narrative-free cascade of images that revels in the mess and mayhem of having children.

Callaghan and Ingram-Dodd are the kids here, starting the show by mouthing along to a recording of infants’ babble (in the style of those tedious Haribo advertisements) while playing with saws. With Requardt, they form a squirming Gordian knot, intertwined and holding each other in turn off the floor, so you’re sometimes not sure where a protruding arm or leg has come from. It’s a powerful visual representation of a sense of merged identity, that strange time when a woman becomes defined by her children.

Newborns can seem frighteningly odd, alien creatures, especially when you’re responsible for them – hence, presumably, why Callaghan and Ingram-Dodd at this point don giant toadstool costumes and wobble about amid dry ice, prodding and tickling each other. Then, naked, they wriggle through one of the seven large children’s building blocks scattered across the stage, repeating this “birth” from a red-lined box over and over, flopping out on to the floor and looking around amazed, while Requardt mournfully blows into a kazoo to mimic the sound of a baby wailing.

These babies become stamping, roaring monsters in one of the most effective sequences, turning over toy boxes of plastic balls, and leaving Requardt run ragged in their wake, or transformed into a screaming beast herself. But the focus of the piece starts to slip and slide after this, there are longueurs – and despite bursts of intense physicality, little actual dance content.

The building blocks are turned at one point so their lettered sides spell out something quite subversive, and the toadstools return, this time with added phallic appendages, pooping and peeing with abandon across the floor. The resulting huge puddle is put to good use: the naked trio, having gone through the same knotty sequence they enacted fully clothed at the start, send themselves gliding across the stage in gleeful abandon – pure Dave St-Pierre, for those who remember the Canadian choreographer’s Un Peu de Tendresse, Bordel de Merde!

Requardt is probably best known for her strange large-scale outdoor dance works with David Rosenberg, including such festival fare as Electric Hotel, Motor Show and The Roof – their latest work, DeadClub, comes to The Place in September. Mothers is equally off-piste, but at the other end of the scale – small and intimate. Movements are gesture-led, distilling personal experience, creating unfamiliarity through repetition. It’s a dark-tinged work that doesn’t hold back from sharing the less glamorous aspects of motherhood – but sometimes, the fact it’s so personal makes Mothers hard to connect with.

Siobhan Murphy is a freelance writer and editor, who also contributes to Dancetabs and Time Out. Find her on Twitter @blacktigerlily

What’s On