Review: Vera Tussing You Ain’t Heard Nothing Yet

Performance: 22 & 23 May 2012
Reviewed by Misa Brzezicki - Friday 25 May 2012

Vera Tussing 'You Ain't Heard Nothing Yet'  Photo: Tom Cornille

Performance reviewed: 22 May

Bodies don’t exactly dance Vera Tussing’s You Ain’t Heard Nothing Yet, as much as produce it aurally. The performers are acoustic instruments, manipulating their bodies and voices to create scenarios that are heard and imagined by the audience. It’s the art of foley, used in film and radio as a method of reproducing sounds for scenes. So we hear gunshots or dripping taps at the same time as watching the bodies that produce these sounds – it’s the movement that makes them audible.

Tussing’s work revolves around a deconstruction of the cinematic experience; watching a film, we don’t consciously see or hear but encounter the world presented through an inseparable combination of the two – termed ‘hear-seeing’ in the programme note. For this performance, the audience were invited to open and close eyes at will, a way to unravel the two acts of sensory perception and edit the work for themselves. Any possibility of passive watching goes out of the window; by heightening our awareness of the layers of sound and vision, Tussing provokes us into engaging on a different level. To be blunt, it’s harder work than watching your average dance piece.

Sight and sound, there’s a lot going on here. Movements making the sounds that produce our individual, mental image – rubbing knuckles together, flicking and striking thighs, chests – have little to do with the images they conjure. They are performed with a professional detachment that keeps things neutral, leaving the audience to fill in the gaps. Speakers are carried around in rucksacks, playing snatches of film soundtracks to help us along. It’s like lots of separate individual works are being made in the moment.

Andrew Hardwidge, Ann Pidcock and Petra Söör were the three game performers, covering foley, narration, audio description and acting with aplomb. Söör was a particular standout, assured and engaging, with a fine line in horse imitation. She mapped out the stage with the air of a girl guide on an orienteering course, busily setting up microphones and hoisting a backcloth with her rucksack on. Scenes were repeated and described through different visual and aural methods; tracing pathways, sitting and making the sounds together, miming the actions. Things really came alive in a section where all three combined to present a scene; set up like a radio play recording with microphones and lecterns, one performed the sounds in the scene, whilst the others simultaneously described the visuals and sounds. The detail and scale of ‘hear-seeing’ was really emphasised, as was the effort of trying to unpick it within the same timeframe that we would unconsciously use.

Visual imagery was spare, almost incidental, but provided some beautiful moments. Rustling, transparent fabric covering the performance space was dragged offstage; barely lit, it was a character making a sinisterly calm exit, a lingering sound of soft wind. The performers’ shadows loomed through a hanging, backlit cloth before they pushed through, the transformation from blurry shadow to real body like the screen dissolving in a TV dream sequence.

There’s a good deal of sound research behind all this and at its best the piece wore it lightly, managing to be clever and direct. By necessity it occupied a kind of neutral middle ground, which meant there was space for ambiguity but not a great deal of dynamic variation. Perhaps the traditional mode of a staged piece isn’t quite the right context. Another strand of Tussing’s research was discussed in the post show Q&A, the installation Sound Bed which sounded like an intriguing frame for this work; an audience member is placed on a platform surrounded by speakers, and gently moved through around the space as different soundscapes are played. The ideas are fascinating, the execution is on the right track. It will be interesting to see where Tussing takes this next.

Part of Springloaded at The Place, continuing until the end of June

Misa Brzezicki took part in this year’s Resolution! Review – The Place’s online magazine which includes reviews of every Resolution! show, by professional dance critics and aspiring writers.

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