PanicLab – Swan Lake II : Dark Waters

Photo Credit: Nicola CanavanPhoto Credit: Nicola Canavan

Wandering home in the dark, the boy drunkenly stumbles. It’s a freezing December evening on the heath. The quickest way home is through the brambles, the grass and the dirt.
He checks his phone. It’s dead.
The calm water from the ponds reflects in the moonlight, giving the trees an eerie glow.
It becomes obvious he is not alone on this midnight stroll. Shapes move in the bushes. And a swan can be heard clearly in the cold crisp air.

Last night walking through the shiny and insincere lights of Sloane Square, I made my way to what is a refreshing place of truth and light. Where else in London can you have gorgeous Chocolate cake, talk about Welshness with living legend Penny Arcade whilst waiting for a show which features Swan Lake and a naked man?

Over sixty artists perform in this year’s SACRED: The Identity Issue at the Chelsea Theatre. With the premise on challenging or reinforcing the debate on gender and sexuality, how does one construct it? Is it through ourselves or through others?
The programme is bursting with a number of well-known performance makers and orators, ranging from the erudite David Hoyle to ‘Drag Fabulist’ Dickie Beau.

Tonight it was the turn of PanicLab, the company founded in 2008 by Joseph Mercier and Clara Giraud. PanicLab create works that provoke, challenge and come from a place of collaboration.

The Piece:

Entering the space, it became evident that something horrific had happened here, an act of violence had just occurred. The hanging carcass of a swan, the swan of famous folklore hangs flaccidly from the ceiling. It’s beauty has been diminished under cruel circumstances.

How can one kill such beauty? Murder and perhaps rape? Leda and the Swan role-reversal.

In the midst of this scene lies a man. What has he done? That’s the question on everyone’s minds. Slowly and eerily Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake filled my ears.

Death, Love and Magic.

Jordan Lennie gave a very sincere and disturbing performance, shifting between moving to a man clearly deranged.
His movement I felt was filled with trauma. The body regressed to a time in the past, connected to the acts of murder or betrayal. The male physique can be extremely beautiful when contorted and twisted. A fragility we don’t usually see in society.
Refreshing and exciting moments came from task-based actions which ran throughout the 55 minute piece. The beautifully visual floor hid a multitude of surprises.

During the piece, I felt almost like a voyeur, an individual witnessing the guilt of a spoilt brat, he may look like a man, but there was something cracked under the surface. A loss or lacking. How can he cope with the pain?

The tell-tale heart has been transformed and is now hanging before his very eyes.

There were moments I found slightly problematic, for example the over use of Tchaikovsky’s score. In my mind the context for the story was already established from the first five minutes. It perhaps didn’t need to be reinforced.

But on the whole it was exciting to see the queerness of the original ballet permeate into this piece. Swan Lake when looked at closely is extremely Queer, beside from the tutu’s and tight etc.
It can be said that Tchaikovsky projected his own frustration/desire into the work. The phallic Swan represents a loss, a melancholic unfulfilled life. A life which a gay man in the 1800’s can resonate with.

Joseph Mercier’s and collaboraters I feel certainly used this Queer aspect as a lens to unpick the darker moments of the original ballet, whilst letting this piece stand out on its own as a fully formed and strong , it fitted the bill for the SACRED season and perhaps more so.

Choreographers/Creators: Joseph Mercier and Jordan Lennie
Performer: Jordan Lennie
Directed by Joseph Mercier
Sound Designer: Dinah Mullen
Set and Costumes: Rachel Good
Lighting Designer: Ziggy Jacobs-Wyburn
Production Manager: Hannah Moore
Producer: Clara Giraud

*Featured/thumbnail image:Jordan Lennie performing in Swan Lake II: Dark Waters which will be showing at The Chelsea Theatre 24 & 25 November at 8pm; image courtesy of Nicola Canavan © 2015