Marc Brew, For Now I Am

Posted: March 18th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off on Marc Brew, For Now I Am

Marc Brew, For Now I Am, Lilian Baylis Studio, March 10

Marc Brew in For Now I Am (photo: Susan Hay)

Marc Brew in For Now I Am (photo: Susan Hay)

There is not a wheelchair in sight. The setting of Marc Brew’s For Now I Am is prior to any suggestion of a wheelchair, when the idea of a wheelchair was just too optimistic. This is the morning Brew woke up in hospital following a car crash that left two of his friends dead and one still struggling for life in a ward above him. His body is draped in a white sheet and doctors are still analyzing his injuries. We see projected an image of clouds scudding across the sheet that become ominously darker until they are replaced by a white grid. A glaring scan runs from bottom to top and top to bottom; an X-ray of Brew’s spine is projected on to his supine form. The clinical tests and the body’s stillness are eerie; under the giant sheet on the Lilian Baylis stage is not an actor but the person who underwent that unimaginable experience. In the nineteen years since then Brew has travelled further than he ever expected as a dancer and along the way has sublimated those memories and experiences into a performance. This evening is the second part of a proposed trilogy that began with Remember When in 2008. The figure ‘eight’ in Chinese characters signifies ‘open’, so both the first and the second parts of the trilogy eight years later fall at propitious moments when Brew evidently feels open enough to talk about life before and after the accident. For Now I Am occupies the time immediately after, a time when the promise of the future was not clear, when his damaged and broken body was a battlefield of conflicting emotions. It is not hard to feel that the work is as much a memorial to his three fellow passengers as it is a memory for him. He points upwards not towards heaven but to the ward above where the only other survivor of the crash eventually succumbed to her injuries.

The production of For Now I Am constitutes an elaborate and rather beautiful metaphor for healing — ripples of water in both Jamie Wardrop’s projections and Claire McCue’s score — which Brew fills with an almost Butoh-like range of slow, precise and considered movements — part visualization and part exploration of his physical boundaries. The result of his spinal cord injury at C6/C7 was a paralysis from the chest down, and at first even the mobility of his hands and arms was affected. Such a simple task as placing each finger against the thumb was a mark of progress. The achievement of the staging is to draw us into this minute scale of attention that Brew experienced in the early days of rehabilitation. The silk sheet is pulled back to reveal first his head and shoulders; from underneath he brings out one arm and in Andy Hamer’s careful lighting we watch the smallest of movements, one finger at a time, take on a poignant significance. One can sense the achievement of clasping an elbow and raising it above his head or the frustration of beating his chest with his fists. The range of upper body movement grows; in lighter moments his arms and shoulders are eloquent as they converse with one another like the necks of two swans and in darker ones he transforms a symbol of prayer into a gun and grabs his head in despair. Gradually his body emerges like a chrysalis from its cocoon, a metaphor Brew understands only too well. His fingers walk up his vertebrae with the clinical calculation of a surgeon; we are watching the process of rebirth and regeneration after the operations to repair his spine. His shaven head atop his spare, muscular upper body seated on a sheet of white silk has connotations of a meditative practice, or simply of the willpower to overcome and ultimately to find the opportunity in his disability.

The title of the work is itself an indication of Brew’s acceptance of his condition and as a performer he is revealing his body for the first time to the gaze of the public as he once did involuntarily to the doctors and surgeons in hospital. For Now I Am is a performance of his acceptance. From his seated position he moves around the stage and around himself in a series of spirals, gathering in the silk sheet like a coiled throne until he arrives at a point of composure and self-control. What Brew does next is a transference in the dark of his seated body to one that is suspended upside down by his ankles and raised above the ground. It is a dramatic inversion, not only physically but conceptually. It may well be a clinical view of the broken body, an unsentimental acceptance of his material condition, but at the same time it is the one movement in the performance Brew has not had to fight with his extraordinary patience and courage to control.


For a recent interview with Marc Brew, click here