Thursday, 21 June 2007

Grotesque Beauty & Whose Memory? St Martins Next Generation 2007 , June 21, 2007

Grotesque Beauty & Whose Memory? 
St Martins Next Generation 2007
 Irene Mitchell Studio St Martins, June 21 until July 1, 2007
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on June 21, 2007

St Martins Youth Theatre trains and encourages young performing artists and Next Generation 2007, the program for emerging artists, features two very different projects created by two young women.

Whose Memory?, written and performed by Jennifer Monk, is a short series of vignettes featuring characters inspired by Monk’s own photographs.

She begins with a cute little girl who proudly shows off her fluffy, yellow dress and her red, sparkly Dorothy shoes that her Granny gave her. She twirls and shyly hides behind a child-sized lace parasol. Then we meet an infirm, elderly grandmother who longs to see her grandchildren who visit her only to snatch $20 on their birthdays.

 Next is a teen runaway whose conversation is riddled with expletives and who loves to play the guitar – very badly. About the same age is a conceited high schooler who dreams of seducing her Media Studies teacher in the darkroom. In contrast is an intellectually disabled girl who struggles to put on her cardigan.

The five characters are not connected and there is no narrative. Monk enjoys the challenge of transforming from one persona to another but there is a need for more than simple demonstration of the characters. Some dramaturgical advice on forming the pieces into a dramatic structure might have served her well.

Grotesque Beauty, choreographed by Emma Anglesey, is a longer, movement-based performance inspired by the film adaptation of Virginia Wolf’s Orlando. Anglesey explores mutations of Elizabethan women’s costume, dance and manners, warping traditional images to create a contemporary style.

The dancers hold hands to form a daisy chain and trail through the semi-darkened space or mould their bodies into a horse and carriage with a lady riding atop. The dancers strike poses reminiscent of the Elizabethan court but the movement is grotesque and contorted. They distort their faces, mime gossiping conversations and whisper criticisms.

The movements are slow but convulsive. The bodies are out of control, moving to the discordant strains of the electrified cello (Jeremy Shelly) and recorded sound scape. They tremble and twitch, glide and lurch in a dreamlike netherworld.

Although the piece would be more compelling at half the length, Grotesque Beauty is definitely an interesting exploration of movement with non-dancers.

By Kate Herbert

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