‘Guilty Fingers’ - C-Scape Dance Company
Woolfenden Hall, Rugby, UK; September 20, 2007
One of the nice things about writing about dance is that every now and again you get a really pleasant surprise. That was certainly the case with C-Scape Dance Company and their sometimes hard-hitting, sometimes humorous, form of dance theatre that brings together choreography and clever use of film and text.
Based in Truro, Cornwall, C-Scape was formed following the involvement of five dancers in “Selling the Wind”, a large-scale, site-specific work made for Boscastle Harbour in summer 2002. Since then, co-directors Sally Williams and Helen Tiplady and their dancers have worked extensively in a range of settings, large and small, indoor and out, the prime aim being to make work that is both thought-provoking yet accessible.
“Guilty Fingers” certainly achieves that. The evening comprises four works on the theme of women in war. It’s an unusual subject for a dance company. After the show, Williams explained that the idea came about following “Landings” a collaborative project in with local schools and communities performed in the beautiful Trebah Gardens in 2005. The work explored some events of World War II, in particular American forces preparing and leaving for D-Day and their effect on the local people.
The first half of “Guilty Fingers” weaves through an era of debutantes and life on the home front for women in World War II. It opens with Fleur Darkin’s “Debutantes Guide to the Etiquette of War”. Through their testimonies, Darkin showed us how debs struggled and failed to avoid the realities of war. Although quite long passages of text were used to set the scene, they were intertwined with unexpected moments of dance, some of which cleverly included the use of jackets on coat hangers as men.
After “Always Carry your Gasmask” mostly an amusing film in true 1940s public service film style, “Space in the Bed” turned to domestic experience. Cleverly based on the idea that what was written between the lines in letters in more important than the words themselves, the piece took us into the world of hidden thoughts, mixing dreams and reality. The work veered between the light-hearted and the thought provoking, as indeed did much of the evening. One scene where a dancer tosses and turns, or ‘dances’, in bed was especially notable. It was as if you really could see what was going on inside.
The first half of the evening may draw on dreamy nostalgia but after the break the audience is transported to the war-torn Belfast of 1974. Choreographed by Debbie Fionn Barr, “The Butcher Street Girls” told of five women and how a single incident changed their lives. As it opens we see the women going about their lives, recognisable daily tasks interspersed with athletic dance that cleverly used various parts of the set as support. The mood however suddenly changes tone when one takes pity on a dying British soldier, comforting him in his last moments. While the rather protracted opening made this the least satisfying work of the evening as a whole, it also contained some of the most disturbing and memorable dance theatre I have seen for a long time as her so-called friends violently turn on her.
“Guilty Fingers’ is an evening that combines storytelling with some excellent dance theatre. The small set is cleverly used as the dancers move on, around and even under it. Much of the dance was very energetic with lots of use of contact and release, but almost all very clean and very natural; rarely did it look forced. It’s not too often one walks away from a performance feeling that it really has made a deep impact on your consciousness, but this was one of those occasions. The evening wasn’t perfect. Apart from the problems with “The Butcher Street Girls”, I could for example have done without the idea of ‘dusting’ the audience that came between two pieces in the first half. It would have been much better to simply pause and move on. But they are minor points that certainly did not spoil a superb evening. C-scape are a young company that deserve to go places. If they come your way, go take a look.