It’s not unusual for a dancer to be part of the creative process, but usually that involves working out steps in the rehearsal studio. When Deborah Colker started researching her new show Cruel, however, she wanted her dancers to use their brains not their bodies. ‘To begin with Deborah gave us all a word like love, illusion, deception, blame,’ explains Carol Pagano, a dancer with Companhia de Dança Deborah Colker for many years. ‘And we all had to take this word away and think about what it meant in our personal lives.’ After much group discussion, one major theme emerged family. Almost all the dancers spoke about unresolved issues with their parents, siblings and partners, giving Colker a rich subject matter to feed her choreography.

‘The show starts in a ballroom where everything is perfect,’ says Pagano. ‘We all find a partner and think we’ll have a wonderful relationship forever.’ Inevitably,

this is not the case, and the story of four families unfolds, each with its own set of problems. As usual, Colker’s trademark theatrical staging is in full effect, with a giant table forming the centrepiece of the first half, replaced by mobile mirrors in the second, altering our perception of the 17 dancers.

Most intriguingly, Pagano’s character spends half the show dancing in one pointe shoe. She also closes this exciting, dramatic and sometimes emotional show with a meaningful smile to the audience. What’s the theory behind that? ‘I represent the woman who takes on all the family’s problems,’ she explains. ‘And the pointe shoe is like a scar, because it’s not all perfect in a family and a relationship. But I need to go on with these scars and all these problems, I can’t just say I don’t want this anymore. So the smile at the end conveys that even with all these problems, life is still beautiful and worthwhile. And I think everybody who sees Cruel can get involved and identify with what we’re talking about.’ (Kelly Apter)


Flann O’Brien’s novel The Third Policeman is intriguing for its capacity to weave the extraordinary from the banal. Its representation of mid-20th century Irish rural life takes its central, unnamed character on a journey through recognisable fields, pubs and inns peopled by rogues and vagabonds. Yet somewhere the story becomes far more existential than its surface action suggests, bringing the reader into a fantastical landscape that suggests frightening ideas in often comic language and imagery. So how does a theatre-maker distil

so extravagantly picaresque a journey? According to Niall Henry, director of this acclaimed Jocelyn Clark adaptation for Irish company Blue Raincoat, the key is simplicity. ‘Our whole company is geared toward absurd texts, with plenty of visual and movement-based work,’ he says. ‘But we stay with this simple idea of what it’s about, so as not to get confounding or pretentious or lost in some other way. So for me the story is about this man’s obsession with this box that he’s stolen, which he’s now lost. That’s my starting point for so many things the audience might need the text to become.’ For all its existential overtones, Henry

maintains the novel is still primarily comic, and has much to say about the Irish character. ‘Interestingly it seems to me that the English are quite good at laughing at themselves, something the Irish haven’t been good at, with the exception of O’Brien he has that quality of being deeply self-critical, scathing and hilarious at the same time. You get to embrace the ridiculousness of yourself.’ (Steve Cramer)

PREVIEW CONTEMPORARY DANCE RANDOM DANCE: ENTITY Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Tue 18 & Wed 19 May

A good costume can do wonders for a performance, but sometimes in the dance world, less can most definitely be more. Very little material was sacrificed for Wayne McGregor’s 2008 work, Entity, with the dancers clad in something akin to underpants and bikinis. Inspired by recent developments in neuroscience, the piece is a fast-paced exploration of how the body moves and to appreciate that, you’ve got to see it happen.

‘I think Entity would be a very different piece if the audience couldn’t see our bodies working hard,’ says dancer Antoine Vereecken. ‘The movement is quite extreme and you can really see the physicality of the piece, and all the muscles moving. It’s quite a beautiful thing to watch, because in dance you don’t often get that yes, you look at the dancer’s body, but you don’t look at it in an anatomical way. So the science part is very present.’ Vereecken has been with Random Dance Company since 2004, and along with the

rest of the dancers, has absorbed McGregor’s long-running interest in all things scientific. ‘Wayne is the most inspiring person I’ve ever worked with,’ he says, ‘because he’s so curious and he shares all that curiosity with us. Often with other choreographers it’s just about the steps, you have copy and learn them. But Wayne brings a whole different level. The physicality is very important, but what lies behind it is just as important, and that makes it fascinating from a dancer’s point of view.’ (Kelly Apter)

82 THE LIST 13–27 May 2010