Traverse, Edinburgh

Mary Brennan

three stars

Themes of identity, of home and belonging, have often intensified the work of Frank McConnell, co-founder and artistic director of Plan B, the Ross-shire based company known for dance-making with dramatic edge and a liking for quirky designs. This time, it’s a guest choreographer who is taking those themes forward in a new touring production.
In fact, Chrissie Ardill has danced with Plan B in the past, so she comes to Citizen with an awareness of how McConnell and his team like to nudge boundaries aside. Ardill responds by bringing in a live composer/musician, Mariam Rezaei, who mixes the soundtrack in real time and who joins in the fabric of the piece, even as the four (female) dancers join their voices in the harmonious hums that have such a bitter-sweet tinge to them. That could well be the cadence of home-sickness, for these are all women who - by choice or from necessity - have become strangers in a strange land. Letters home, always upbeat and reassuring, are spoken aloud by the performers: costumes - the domestic’s overalls, for instance - tell other stories, as does the body language with its recurring crumplings of despair and weariness. There is a cyclical feel to Ardill’s movement vocabulary of stretches, lunges, turns - maybe these outsiders haven’t yet fallen into the other steps of those who already belong? And at times, the need to emphasis the “us and them” barriers of exclusion leads to the screams, wrenchings and heavy falls losing impact through repetition. Yet there’s no doubting the sincerity of purpose here, as the women try to find their uncertain way by the light of Karen Tennent’s inspired lava-lamp sign-posts.

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