Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

When will the September roses bloom?

Goat Island , Chapter Arts centre Cardiff , June 9, 2005
Five people, two female, three male, walk on to the stage. But it’s not a stage. The Chapter main theatre has been laid out as a basic ‘studio’ style rectangle for this performance. The,full-house audience sits along each of the long walls of the room. This intimate relationship between performer and audience is essential for this production.

The five performers, dressed in identical white shirts and black pants, are not young. Neither are they old. They are assured and totally committed to the somewhat eccentric way in which they work. They engage us without being completely captivating but in between their stylishly performed dance moments they are so laid back that one has to question just how much engagement with their audience do they demand? They don’t deliberately set out to alienate but by the time two hours have passed, whilst many of the audience may not have completely switched off, our commitment to the show has decidedly diminished.

The performance is not over long by neglect. Every piece of the action is most carefully produced and the length of the show is clearly a properly considered artistic decision. Sadly this overexposure undermines what at times is a very interesting juxtaposition of words, movement, music and puzzling, if somewhat thought provoking, discussion on a number of complex issues of physics; demonstrated with the aid of a lot of bits of cardboard stuck together with sellotape.

Maybe they should speak for themselves. “Goat Island began creating their eighth performance work with the question: how do you repair? Drawing on diverse sources for dance/movement sequences, theatrical scenes and spoken texts, the company begun mining The Wind (a silent film from 1928), the history of the teaching of the alphabet in America, the time/space patterns of the fibonacci sequence spiral, the poetry of Paul Celan, the philosophy of Simon Weil, and household repair manuals and diagrams. The piece questions our place in a damaged world and our attitude at repairing it.” They allow that their work makes extremely physical demands on the performers and extreme attention demands on the audience.

There was some excellent, well co-ordinated dance work and some entertaining genteel comedy and a lot of ‘experimental’ sequences of mime and human relationships. The ensemble works exceedingly well together and clearly has built up a very strong rapport between the artists But it’s all just too much. All the statements, comments and physical pictures they made were very valid, at times even exciting The artistic conclusions drawn down from their source material could have been set out and achieved with a much stronger theatrical effect in half the time.

I suspect that was not what this Chicago - based group wanted to achieve. We need to respect their judgement but they must forgive us if we haven’t got the stamina to go all the way with them.

If you want to put your intellectual faculties to the test, they will be in Bristol on Thursday and Friday, this week, Zagreb in July and at the Venice Biennale in September.

Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

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