Review: GOlive London 2015: GOlab 2 - Lion and Unicorn Theatre

Performance: 6 - 18 June 2015
Reviewed by Claire Cohen - Monday 8 June 2015

Hanna Wroblewski - 'My Heart became this Monster'

Performance reviewed: 6 June
Zoi Dimitriou & Mata Saka | My Johansson | Alice Labant | Hanna Wroblewski | Tania Batzoglou & Vanio Papadelli

I came away from the Lion and Unicorn pub in Kentish Town replete. Not only with the best fish and chips I’ve had for some time, but upstairs in the intimate space of the Giant Olive theatre I was treated to a good helping of Greek-inspired performance for dessert.

It was the opening night of GoLive 2015, the fourth such assortment of delights curated by veteran arts critic Donald Hutera, who has enough experience and contacts in the business to know how to put on a good show. Hutera called the performances in the evening’s line up a ‘Greek invasion’ and referred to the current political and economic situation in that country producing a certain type of creativity. Tonight’s performers, all women, included four Greeks. All five pieces, whether Greek or not, were startlingly powerful in their physicality and all involved a ‘battle’ theme expressed in different ways.

In the first piece, Movement and Resonance, Zoi Dimitriou and Mata Saka shimmered at each other from across the dance floor like the waters of the Aegean. They struck poses which complemented each other like a pair of statues. But whenever the women touched they jumped apart, reacting with shock caused by the repercussion of physical contact. They successfully held several long pauses, gradually reacting less and less when their bodies met. Interesting. You were left to wonder how far this corporal relationship would eventually develop.

A strong relationship with the floor was evident in My Johansson’s solo Negotiating Space. She stayed low and in a horizontal plane throughout yet kept your interest as she slowly uncurled from a quasi- foetal position, propelling herself around the performance area by relying on the mobility of her spine and strength of her leg muscles. There was something powerfully biological about it and instead of coming across as bizarre, it felt as though what was happening was part of a natural process.

Alice Labant followed, her piece Je m’appelle Reviens choreographed to the sound of a washing machine. (To me it sounded like it was on the woollens cycle). It’s hum and drone in 4/4 time provided a captivating rhythm for her dance, created as a reflection of some of her life experiences. A lot of them must have been edgy, as she held strong positions where she threatened to overbalance – and some dancers would have done – before adroitly realigning and rescuing herself. A gifted dancer and one to watch.

Hanna Wroblewski’s My Heart became this Monster threw down the gauntlet to the audience: what are you going to make of this? Her performance began with her kneeling in a corner, her long bare back towards us, her lower half encircled on the floor by a full taffeta skirt concealing the rest of her body. And how she flexed those shoulder blades to mobilise her spine, so that her entire upper body writhed forcefully! It was as if a Greek marble statue of a torso on a circular plinth was coming to life and testing its power. But a mix of Scandinavian and Icelandic musical chords suggested there was reason to be wary.

Wroblewski suddenly turned into a monster, roving round the stage inverted, supported only by hands and feet, back fully arched, neck exposed and hair sweeping the floor. The skirt became a warning, a reptile’s bonnet, part of the defence system of a monster you wouldn’t want to fight even if you were the hero of a Greek myth. The effort of producing this demanding move caused her to emit animal-like grunts as this bare-breasted beast she’d become heaved its way around the stage, literally gasping for air. Finally we could relax as she sat and recovered, panting for breath but apparently getting slowly back to normal. Intriguing, and she succeeds in getting the audience thinking: is this a dream, a nightmare, a story, an allegory? Whatever it is, she leaves us with unforgettable images.

The final and, at about 45 minutes, longest piece, Candid saw Tania Batzoglou and Vanio Papadelli use movement, text and hand held film imagery to explore with relish the fine line between love and hate in friendship. In girlhood ‘best friends’ mode they skipped with ropes while thinking up gentle and kind analogies to describe each other. Then, giving full rein to their hot Greek temperaments, they indulged in a play fight which, although it looked violent, kept to their rules – until one of them broke the rules by slapping the other’s face, provoking a ‘real’ upset. The quarrel carried on at loud volume offstage much to the amusement of the audience. When the pair reappeared, this time wearing more grown up young women’s ‘going out’ shoes, they appeared to be best of friends, laughing hysterically about something they’d seen or shared. But soon their relationship took another nosedive as good humour evaporated and they started competing with each other as ‘bitch friends’ to see who could hurl the most colourful abuse. This contrasted potently with their earlier exquisite poetic praise of one another.

The bickering ceased and they decided to take tea together. Earlier they’d invited audience members to jot down on small, white pieces of paper any negative remark they’d once made to or received from a friend, and put these paper pieces in a sugar bowl. Starting with their own ‘You never pay me a compliment’ or ‘You did that behind my back’, they each read out in turn an audience contribution, then appeared to chew up each scrap of paper before spitting it out across the stage. The pair continued to help themselves to pieces of ‘sugar’, reading out the audience contributions, which they popped in their mouths and spat out again until it was all gone. Their subsequent shaking in unison with sudden onset sugar craving was an enjoyable feat of choreography. Unusual and hilarious, with both actors equally talented, this piece nicely overdid Greek drama to portray the ancient themes of love and hate that can arise between – clearly female – friends.

GOlive London 2015: GOlab 2 runs until 18 June – Giant Olive Theatre at Lion and Unicorn pub, Kentish Town

Claire Cohen is a freelance dance writer. After attending ballet classes for adult beginners at English National Ballet she took part in their Dance is the Word workshop, fusing her writing skills with an enthusiasm for ballet and dance. Find her on Twitter @balletbichon

Main photo: Hanna Wroblewski’s My Heart became this Monster

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