Politically, the time is out of joint in Ireland. Elections and assemblies, tariffs and trade deals, boundaries, borders and Brexit provide the motivation and subtext for Maiden Voyage’s newly commissioned double bill.
Everything is on the table, even the dance itself, as Eileen McClory’s challenging, intimate Brink unfolds atop a high square table.
Ryan O’Neill and Vassiliki Stasinaki begin and end as an intertwined knot of human flesh. In the context of Northern Ireland’s troubled past, it is a discomfiting image. In the intervening 25 minutes and within the tight confines of their performance space, they submit their bodies to a sinuous process of physical entanglement and disengagement, rarely breaking contact while creating a series of tender and tormented images.
Mutual trust is an essential element in their partnership as each in turn carries, protects, supports the other. The male dancer is not inevitably the source of strength and endurance. Stasinaki’s tiny frame shows itself eminently capable of bringing her man – the tall, strongly built O’Neill – through difficult moments.
Katie Richardson’s compelling soundscape builds and builds to a deafening crescendo. It resonates to the once-familiar sounds of conflict – whirring helicopters, crackling gunfire, slamming cell doors – while piercing searchlights create gigantic dark shadows against the back wall and relentlessly pick out the detail of McClory’s high-risk choreography.
The angular precision of Liz Roche’s The Here Trio offers an intriguing reflection on space, history and the transitory, uncertain nature of our humdrum existence, all unfolding within the rapidly changing environments around us.
Threaded by an introspective vocal commentary and to the beat of Brian O’Connell’s solo percussion accompaniment, the three extraordinary dancers – O’Neill, Sarah Cerneaux and Glória Ros Abellana – collectively navigate a green screen or sward.
They take us on a journey of exploration, from the busy, traffic-clogged streets outside the venue to the manoeuvrings and manipulations inside the political arena and the stress and agitation within our own beings.
Their unpredictable body language unspools into intriguing swirls of syncopated patterns, one minute agitated and reactive, the next bringing peace to body, mind and spirit.
Both pieces are effective on a number of levels, invoking real memories and disturbing flashbacks while underlining the unsettling times in which we are now living, with new, often unpleasant, surprises surfacing at every hand’s turn.
A shorter version of this review was first published in The Stage on 10 February 2020.