Celui Qui Tombe | Review
Grand Opera House • Thursday 19 October 2017
By Conor O’Neill
Belfast International Arts Festival is in full swing. This year the theme is dance and movement. According to the blurb this 2016 Olivier Award Nominee “unites circus skills and physical theatre seamlessly” and though I’m no aficionado or versed expert on modern dance, I do tend to agree.
The set is sheer simplicity. A large square of wooden beams hangs from the ceiling by somewhat tenuously thin-looking wire cables and sits two feet from the GOH’s main stage. Tan coloured taut leather, or some material close to it, is stretched across the beam and this piece of kit alone is the only prop. But it’s the use of this meandering, swinging and sometimes close to decapitating block that provides the narrative. That and the grace and superhuman strength of the six dancers who at times are at the mercy of the structure and at other times control the speed of it roll as they pair up, run in unison, claw their way on all fours, dangle, climb and contort their bodies as three hundred paying guests marvel at their antics.
I mentioned narrative. No words are spoken: music, sound, lighting, song and the dexterity of the performers are the only indication prompting our emotions as we’re thrust into a world without name but one all too real for anyone who has had the disjointing pleasure of waking from some hypnogogic dream state only to feel happy to have escaped but troubled by the exposure of such anarchy.
Loneliness, forced and unforced unity, individuality, uniformity and constant struggle are the main themes entrapped in the hour and five-minute performance. Frank Sinatra’s, My Way, orchestral flows and a distant French number are the only soundtrack to the movement of stretched sinew and aching muscle.
The slow, ponderous beginning gathers pace as the tension mounts, the pairs swap and change, one performer sits while the others group together, facing away then crowding around, roles are reversed. The huge structure rolls like an ocean, dragging bodies along in its undertow, others duck under at the last moment. The stage upon a stage rises almost to the top of the theatre, moves sideways, horizontally, vertically and every degree of inclination in between.
It’s up to each individual audience member to take from the performance what they will. But melancholy, alienation, uncertainty and struggle are some of the thoughts that come to my mind. All of the above are played out with grace and strength.
If looking at the Grand Opera’s program of what’s going on would I have been inclined to circle this show as a ‘must see’? Probably not. Am I glad I attended? Most definitely. Choreographer and director Yoann Bourgeois is of world renown within certain circles and it’s easy to understand why.
Celui Qui Tombe runs until Friday 20 October. For tickets visit www.goh.co.uk or phone the box office on 02890241919.