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The Company ‘Reasons to be Cheerful’; Lydia Ariken ‘Slip’; Lapsus Corpi ‘Waiting for Audi-Audi’

by Lyndsey Winship

22 January 04 -- The Place, London

Image: Lapsus Corpi ‘Waiting for Audi-Audi’

In “Reasons to be Cheerful’, The Company take an upbeat look at the issue of mental health. Noting that one in four adults are thought to be suffering from mental health problems at any one time, choreographer Erica Knighton uses bland fixed grins and high-energy jazz dance to highlight the manufactured happiness that is marketed as normality. It's rare that The Place's stage sees dancers who look like they've just stepped in from the West End, high-kicking and split-leaping like the kids from Fame.

A wry soundtrack of songs by Ian Dury and the Blockheads gives way to melancholy Chopin and a woman wearing a hospital issue gown, repeating gestures over and over, caught in her spiralling thoughts. In the end they're all popping pills to keep themselves sane. Unfortunately, Knighton's choreographic language is limited and the mismatched ensemble can't really get under the skin of the subject. There's plenty of pizzazz here, but little substance.

Lydia Ariken's “Slip” is a completely different proposition. Collaborating with poet James Byrne, Ariken combines sections of movement with live verse. The direction isn't always clear but there are some effective moments along the way, and the pair manage to create an atmosphere of intensity - even if that's only the audience straining to make sense of it all.

At first cool and composed, Ariken swaps her smart velvet dress for a torn tunic and lets her hair hang across her face. Free and feral, she sways and swoops in circles, spinning back and forth, chasing her tail. Ariken is a very committed performer, with presence and belief, even if her ideas lack development.

Ariken's choice of music is key to creating the charged atmosphere. As Rachmaninov's “Vespers” sweeps over the stage, her slightest movements are lent a religious gravity. Byrne's poems muse over the big questions of time and destiny, but 'Slip' doesn't seem to follow any natural order. There are a lot of words but ultimately it's hard to hear what they are trying to say.

It's into the Theatre of the Absurd for the final piece, Lapsus Corpi's “Waiting for Audi-Audi”, choreographed by Efrosini Protopapa. Inspired by Samuel Beckett, Protopapa combines an intellectual exploration of theatre with clowning and slapstick, blurring boundaries between onstage and offstage, performers and audience, objects, words, and images.

Two brightly coloured clown-girls take centre stage, with a cast of plain-clothed extras applying their make-up, providing props, and taking photos and videos of the proceedings. They repeat mundane mechanical movements, winding themselves up till they snap. Then they play games with names and actions and commands.

Voices tell us that they are waiting for Audi-Audi, but who is Audi-Audi? Turns out it's us, the audience, the final and most important piece of any performance. And thus, once they find us, it's all over. Absurd indeed, but endearingly intriguing.

This review was written for the Resolution! Review website

Lyndsey Winship’s article was written for Resolution! Review on the Place's website.  For more, click here:  Resolution! Review

Edited by Jeff.

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