Review: Zoi Dimitriou - The Chapterhouse - Laban Theatre

Performance: 3 October 2014
Reviewed by Alice Robotham - Monday 6 October 2014

Zoi Dimitriou 'The Chapter House' Photo: Ludovic des Cognets

Performance reviewed: 3 October

They say “When one chapter closes another one begins”. In the case of The Chapter House, Zoi Dimitriou reopens all her past chapters, to create a whole new book. By reconstructing five pieces from her back catalogue of work, Dimitriou examines what it means to be a creator of art. However she doesn’t work alone, inviting Isadora software creator Mark Coniglio to perform on stage with her, video documenting the experience.

Before the performance even starts the stage intrigues. Cables are suspended across it like washing lines, complete with redundant pegs. In one corner is a music stand laden with pages, in the other, a laptop on a desk. Soft lighting fills the stage floor to outline a square, giving the illusion of a domestic boxing ring. There certainly seemed to be an underlying fight in the political flux between Coniglio and Dimitriou. Chapter 1 saw Coniglio subservient to Dimitriou, offering her water from all fours. In another chapter they face one another, mirroring hand gestures, then the tables turn as Coniglio shadows Dimitriou, recording her moves with an iPad. For the best part of the performance Dimitriou appeared to dictate the flow, beginning each section by approaching the stand and reading out words (in an incomprehensible language), before pegging the pages to cables in front of her. Transitions between chapters were not only marked by a return to a variation of their original positions but also by subtle light alterations and not so subtle sound shifts (metronomic beats, silence, techno/choral mash up and more).

For a piece that draws on nostalgia and comments on creativity it was surprisingly light on emotion. Whilst delivered with dignity and consideration, the performance felt so measured that any spontaneity or sentiment often associated with creative processes was lost. The penultimate section did well then to pull the plot together as video flashbacks of her activity were projected onto sheet screens hanging from the cables on stage. It was here that Coniglio seemed to regain some control, manipulating Dimitriou’s work with a technological twist. Paired with an ominous mechanical soundtrack, these flashing sepia toned images acted as pages of a kinetic photo album for the work just performed. As the images were projected, Dimitriou also revealed the themes for each chapter in the piece: the “traditional” Mythos; Agape , the dance for “love”; Ptosis “the fall”; critical change in Crisis and finally the resurrection in Anastasis. Here we finally get a sense of purpose behind the physical narrative and Dimitriou’s motivation as a whole. It would have been the perfect epilogue had Dimitriou not indulged in a final dancing phrase.

Having each chapter’s identity at the end, lead to some memory jogging of my own. I found myself trying to link the previous movement with the themes just revealed. A clever tactic by Dimitriou, perhaps acknowledging the need to attach meaning to our past: contrasting what is created then to what is created now. Coniglio’s video composition supported this, transforming the drawn out and at times tedious stages into a montage of intriguing mini narratives. We also discover that the indecipherable language spoken at the beginning of each chapter is in fact words spoken backwards. Although there was plenty of action on stage it was therefore the intangible processes that gave depth to the piece, from how Coniglio recreated the story to how we responded to it. Dimitriou may have made us work hard, but the results were enlightening.

Photos: Ludovic des Cognets

Alice Robotham is a writer and dance enthusiast who also writes for The Wonderful World of Dance and her own dance blog

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