Review: Ben Wright in Thought latching to thought and pulling at The Purcell Room

Performance: 6 Oct 07
Reviewed by Lindsey Clarke - Thursday 11 October 2007

Dance Umbrella Brief Encounter

The Purcell Room saturated with dry ice was a strange otherworld for a full house to enter. A majority of tickets for Ben Wright’s Brief Encounter had been taken up free by those paying to see Siobhan Davies Dance directly after but it was terrific to see so many punters interested in a short new work. It seems an increasingly popular idea to sample contemporary dance in this way.

Thought latching to thought and pulling is a quartet for four men to an original flute score performed by an all female flute quartet, London Flutes. Originally commissioned for the Place Prize 2006 it is darkly lit by Guy Hoare. Muted columns of light draw an atmospheric dance space on the stage. Often the dancers emerge and vanish into darkness or are outlined indistinctly. Wright calls this a “chamber piece” and that is a very apt description. It could easily be performed in a sacred space, candlelit.

The music opens with urgent, breathy, pan-pipe style flutes evoking suspense and dynamism. The four dancers identically dressed in small, transparent t-shirts and black trousers work as a unit. Movement passes deftly between and through them, iterating and varying themes. The choreography embodies the title of the work, sometimes too literally. Sometimes it’s almost cliché but the piece is abstract and seems also to contain an exploration of masculinity. There are shifts of power and strength between the dancers, moments of tenderness and support, bonding as a group and efforts to break free. There’s also a playfulness of movement, ducking in and out of each other’s arms, and hop skip skimming to the elfin flutes; an effect which feels quite fey at times.

One section uses the snapshot lighting technique recently seen in Maliphant’s Push*and *Shechter’s In Your Rooms. An effective succession of freeze framed poses and moments appearing and disappearing into darkness again.

The performers’ demeanours remain gravely focused throughout. There is no direct connection to the audience; no emotion portrayed or disclosed. There are only the dance, music and light elements at play. This makes for a serene, serious-minded and thoughtful work which was really well received by the open minded Dance Umbrella crowd. It will be interesting how Wright will develop this piece into the promised trilogy.

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