Review: Touch Wood at The Place

Performance: 19 September 09
Reviewed by Sarah Golding - Tuesday 13 October 2009

Touch Wood Programme 4
Temitope Ajose-Cutting, Mickael Marso Riviere, Gary Clarke, Rosalind Crisp, Kompany Malakhi

The Touch Wood programme on 19th September was introduced by Eddie Nixon – Director of Theatre and Artist Development at the Place, and also dance dramaturge Guy Cools. Guy gave us, the audience, a task to perform while watching the evening’s collection of works-in-progress. When he was a dance critic Guy informed us that he used to write down notes and words that conveyed what he thought, saw and felt as he watched a piece of dance. We were all invited to do the same as we watched the performance. Brightly coloured pieces of paper were given for us to note down our thoughts, feelings, and observations, and from there we were encouraged to turn those words into maybe a poem, rap, lyrics, or prose. At the end of the show the creative texts were hung for all to see in the bar area.

In reality what mainly happened was that people wanted to chat to their friends in the interval and discuss what they had seen rather than develop a constructive and creative piece of prose. However, many sheets of paper were up (even if they were mainly random words and scribblings) by the end of the evening and it felt as though the thoughts, responses and imagery from the show were carried through from the auditorium into the foyer. I personally felt as though the task focused my mind and made me aware of details I may have missed if I’d been allowed to sit back and let the dances wash over me. One of the dancers commented that she was really aware of the audience’s attention as if they were actively engaged and involved with the performance from the very beginning. Maybe the written task created a more energised connection between audience and performer…?

The evening opened with Temitope Ajose-Cutting‘s ‘Seven Moments’ , for me, a piece rich with imagery and ideas. As a starting point for a piece I felt that there was so many ideas explored in the piece that there would be room for the dance to expand to allow space to explore each theme in more depth. Having seen previous work from Ajose-Cutting I felt that her choreography has changed and matured as she looks deeper into the expressive possibilities of movement, letting go of the need to include ‘dance steps’ at all times. Dancers: Natalia Thorn & Temitope Ajose-Cutting.

‘Eteint Pas’ by Mickael Marso Riviere was an intense solo inspired by the idea of life after death and stories of out of body experiences. The piece clearly conveyed the theme. The piece opened with Riviere lying completely still for what felt like a minute or two. The calm and stillness that emanated from the stage at first had the same effect on the audience, but then, as the performer remained motionless the audience started to become slightly restless. An interesting exchange whereby someone at rest created a sense of unrest among the observers. There was nothing superfluous to this solo, every movement was there because it needed to be there. Performer: Mickael Marso Riviere.

Gary Clarke’s ‘2 men and a Michael’ was a humorous duet created over 5 days. As the programme notes stated, the duet “is a deadpan send-up of stand-up”, which was, incidently, mostly done sitting down. A clever use of simple actions and gestures in tight unison, timed to perfection. Rhythm and repetition, along with deadpan facial expressions, made us laugh out loud. Performers: Kath Duggan & Ryen Perkins

Rosalind Crisp performed her solo ‘reasons to be cheerful’ just before the interval. A quirky, humorous, and uplifting solo, which appeared to either be improvised, or have come from an improvisation process. As the programme notes stated, “the work forms part of the research for Rosalind’s next work” and I felt that we were allowed the opportunity to view the seed of an idea. It was as though we were watching Crisp’s experimental process with words, ideas and movements. Although at times it was difficult to keep up with the flighty character on stage, it was fun, and funny, to watch her ponderings and exclamations. Performer: Rosalind Crisp

After the interval a change of focus as *Kompany Malakhi’*s ‘Rotations’ combined B-Boyin’ and contemporary dance with a rider on a BMX bike. This 4 minute duet took a moment or two to find its momentum, but once it got going there was a clear connection between rider, bike and dancer – the circular pathways of the BMX linking and interweaving with the shapes & spins of the dancer. There were a couple of hair-raising moments when the wheel of the bike swung over the dancer’s head as he lay on the floor. All credit to Jake for not flinching, I certainly did. Performers: Josh Briars & Jake Nwogu.

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