Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Probe, the dance company that extends performance into contemporary drama, is now an Associate Artist of Merlin Theatre and what a coup for Frome’s theatre to be linked with this exciting group. Currently they are touring with May, a stunning production featuring mesmeric words from Tim Crouch made excitingly visceral and vivid by dance sequences. (thanks Matthew Andrews for the pictures)
The story takes us to terrain that fascinated the writer in his previous award-winning plays My Right Arm and The Author : the relationship between mind and body, and the emotional connection between audience and actors. We seem initially to be in a non-demanding poetry reading, encouraged into comfortable laughter, until the reader’s subject becomes gradually graphically apparent. May, the girl he is writing about, is a self-harmer, and nothing in this gentle social worker’s experience has prepared him for her pain, expressed in struggle to find words and in passionate primal dance. He begins to understand her ‘ecstasy of agony’, how ‘each jab an endogenous spurt blocking out the pain.. a unifying simplicity.’ The poem becomes a love story, mingling empathy with the violence, until we are suddenly back in the drab hall of the readings with a call for the owner of a blue Mondeo to move it please…
Fantastic live music from Scott Smith, who was also the bemused compere, supported fabulous dance from Ben Duke and Antonia Grove, and a brilliantly disturbing script. I came out shaking, after the most extraordinary hour at the theatre for a long time. You can see a clip here, and see the show (or see it again, as I will) in Bristol’s Mayfest. Five stars.

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