I have great affection for Resolution! – an annual, un-curated season of new work by over 80 choreographers held at The Place which, by default of its very open application process, has gathered itself a reputation for not being a guaranteed great night out. So why do I hold it dearly? For this exact reason that it can be a bit rubbish. I think the rubbish-ness of Resolution! is somehow a reminder, albeit a depressing one, of quite how personal performance making is. It is a reminder that every performance, every piece of art even, is a presentation of someone’s personal fantasy (a fantasy being simply something imagined with the hope that it might happen) and their personal ability, skill and creativity to make it happen and to place it in a context with whatever degree of social and cultural awareness they might have.
The people I see passing in the city everyday – attractive, weird, scary, different, familiar – are the same people who make what I watch in the theatre, so why do I sometimes expect things in a theatre to be a certain way, or to be of a certain standard? Paying a few quid doesn’t stop people being weird. Resolution! is maybe a rare situation in which real unfiltered variety is placed on stage – people’s whole, discordant fantasies brought before us without rhyme, reason, or curation and my oh my, people are strange.
On one hand, as an artist and as an audience member, I want everything performed in theatres (at the expense of the audience, the government or various private funders) to be utterly superb, sophisticated, self-aware, stunning, socially clued-up etc. But on the other, I like to sometimes be reminded of the real differences between people, their isolated thoughts, their faults, their delusions, their moments of marvellous ingenuity, and to not only expect my own fantasies to be fulfilled.
Can I have it all?
The opening night of Resolution! 2013 brings several different wandering souls onto the stage. Each as good as they can be.
Wolfgang (Francesca Roche and Tomos Young) present I am Wolf, a duet created and performed by them both. I am bemused by this piece – there are old school dance moves in old school, tea stained, baggy dance pants (I’m not American but the word ‘pants’ just rolls off the tongue) combined with a very alarming use of projected images and videos and an obscure sort of moral ending. Everyone, apparently, has two wolves inside of them and initially I’m willing to believe as such, but I loose faith in the existence of my inner beasts when told of their rather simplified, polarized personalities.
The piece itself, in my eyes, has its own conflict at play. Not between the two wolves, but rather between what I see and what I am lead to believe Roche and Young would like me to see. I see the two dancers roam amongst the audience and move both on and off stage, but I am told to believe (by an angry man on video) that they are somehow trapped. I see the dancers have gentle, sometimes smiling faces, but their clawed hands suggest I should feel threatened. I see retro, Google-search-esque collections of projected images, pixelated to different degrees – which, if played on repeat, could be a sort of comic-tragic presentation of our much photographed and much misunderstood, disaster-filled planet – but I get the feeling that it is actually a more serious attempt to really connect the bad wolf with the bad world… did the bad wolf cause earthquakes? Or sell guns? Earthquakes and guns are quite different fields of work, but it seems the wolves have powers beyond our comprehension.
Cody’s Moving Group (Cody Choi) is an ode to the zombie movie. Six young women play an ever-changing gaggle of characters: terrified girls, limping zombies, dancing zombies, a combination of all three. I can’t keep track of these changing characters – I thought their roles were defined by the costumes (three girls are in hot pants and coloured tops, three are in all black) but it seems not, then I thought it was maybe in the moves, but again they are all chopping and changing so I stop trying to give them roles and just watch them all.
I appreciate the confidence in the clichéd plastic look of the piece: the girls in shorts have complete American cheerleader-sass, the single horror movie scream is fitting and the scared-girls-in-the-woods, incomprehensible high pitched chatter has the comic potential reminiscent of any great zombie movie. But of course, here lies the pinch – when a genre, such as the zombie movie, is appropriated, the appropriator needs to know his shit (excuse me). I am no zombie expert, but I have watched Planet Terror by Robert Rodriguez and when a genre has been pushed so far into satire it is hard for anyone to follow with a sincere pledge to ‘illuminate some of the deepest, darkest truths about our selves’ by means of a zombie dance, without missing a trick. I recommend I Love Sarah Jane by Spencer Susser & David Michôd for a zombie short which shows how little space there is left for nice girls in the world of serious zombie adventures.
This brings me to Hallo Spaceboy by Jacob Hobbs. This piece, thankfully, leaves me with no questions about what I see, what Hobbs wants me to see, what might be satire or what might just be my imagination. Hobbs is like the Captain Haddock of space, replacing every ‘blistering barnacle’ with a hearty ‘fuck’, he ambushes us with his world and it is unique. Here is a wandering soul who has ambition (along with the wolves and the zombies) but also has enough perception to know the extent of his own skills and tools. The performance, the live sound (Hobbs singing with a looper, Benjamin Wall on guitar) and the costumes (wonderfully bold, poetic and bum-centric takes on the space suit by Hollie Miller) are refreshingly wholesome – all part of the same creation and part of a happily flawed human fantasy. Hobbs is a spaceboy, but of course he is not in space. He is running out of air, but of course he isn’t really going to die – he entertains us with his own admissions of theatrical failure.
The piece is a ‘romp’ but it is also stretched and placated enough not to be just a ridiculous series of costume changes and songs. There is a spacey timing to the whole affair.
The piece is rooted in a confident performance, but it is also seems to be rooted in an – apparently genuine – dose of self-doubt. The doubt emerges thematically and consciously, in the exposing of the piece’s dramatic impossibilities, but it also seems to secretly seep into the joints of the piece and stalls some of Hobbs' muscles before they have properly flexed. At one point I watch a great dance filled with tension and rage and then am told that it should have been ‘less shit’ – who do I believe? My own eyes or the dismissive judgement of the lovely spaceboy?
Resolution! runs at The Place until 15th Feb 2013