Company Chameleon: Pictures We Make (preview)

Posted: December 8th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , , | Comments Off on Company Chameleon: Pictures We Make (preview)

Company Chameleon, Pictures We Make (preview), Z-Arts, Manchester, December 7

photo: Mickael Marso Riviere

photo: Mickael Marso Riviere

Wrong. Company Chameleon’s new show, Pictures We Make, has nothing to do with film or television, as I conjectured at the end of my review of Gameshow. It returns instead to the company’s more familiar roots in contact improvisation and partnering. On Friday evening at Z-Arts in Manchester, Kevin Turner and Anthony Missen took their new work out for a run and they were not alone. For those familiar with Turner and Missen as a duo, this is a new departure for they rarely if ever dance together here; they are too busy discovering the joys of interacting with Gemma Nixon and Elena Thomas who make up the quartet of characters. Pictures We Make explores the question of relationships, of ‘how we navigate the space between our experience and expectations’ as we plunge from I to We. ‘Our insecurities and perceptions about how things should be are tested and reflected back by those with whom we share relationships.’ It is a sometimes explosive but always passionate involvement between the four of them that has all the familiar physicality of Turner and Missen but with an equally powerful female element that gives as much as it gets. Pictures We Make will be one of two works on a double bill that will have its première on February 14 (an appropriate date for a theme of relationships) at The Lowry. The second work, to be created by Jonathan Goddard and Gemma Nixon, will go into rehearsal next week. This evening’s showing was in front of invited guests and friends to garner feedback as much as to put in a good run before the creation of the second work begins.

The ‘pictures’ of the title refer to snapshots of relationships lived and remembered, of emotions exposed and hung out to dry, of joys as well as sorrows. Because there are only four characters and their proclivities are heterosexual, it is all too easy to interpret the heady display of relationships as a lot of feral swapping between the two couples, but there are no bust-ups or recriminations between the two men or the two women, which suggests the memories do not exist on a collective level but within the experience of each individual over a long period of time. Who ends up with whom is immaterial, as the narrative doesn’t run in that kind of linear progression: it is only the framing of the ‘pictures’ that closes the circle and gives the proximity of relationships an almost incestuous flow. What the various duets allow is the exploration of a rich seam of emotional involvement, and each dancer gives of him or herself in a risk-taking, primal way one audience member later characterized as relentless (the pictures we make are not always pretty, and if the pictures in this work were photographs, some of them would have been ripped up or burned). There are solos as well as duets: the solos – I am thinking particularly of Thomas’s – reveal the inner turmoil in the context of the particular relationship. Towards the end, Thomas is like a filly that is learning to get up, angular, awkward, unable to support her weight at first, but determined to place those legs under her. Of all the characters, she shows a certain emotional fragility — a victim almost — though she matches the other three in the abandon with which she approaches her relationships. Nixon sets the emotional tone with her opening solo, and seems to be in her element throughout the work, lyrical and tough with a formidable gaze when roused. The two men, divided in their attentions, nevertheless form a powerful unity.

The only props are chairs, a whole pile of them in the exposed wings and some on stage which become islands occupied by the recovering or simmering characters. Nixon is adept at hurling the chairs across the stage in moments of acute frustration or hurt. The starkness of the metal-framed wooden chairs is in marked contrast to the emotional maelstrom that engulfs the relationships, like the setting of an annual dance between the boys’ school and the girls’ school down the road.

Miguel Marin created the score as so many stories sewn together, finding a sound for each character and adjusting those sounds according to the situation in which they find themselves. It works beautifully with the choreography and its theme.

Looking back, the use of chairs and the circular nature of the relationships suggest a vestige of musical chairs, a game in which only one person is left standing. The transition from ‘I’ to ‘We’ inevitably comes down to ‘I’ after all.