Project Arts Centre, Dublin


Garrett Sholdice – Recueillement. Benedict Schlepper-Connolly – Heimat

Unfortunately, despite a wide range of moods in the Baudelaire extracts, including peace, rapture, love and ecstasy, Sholdice has strangely melted them all down to a single sombre atmosphere of unrelenting sadness. One mood, one very slow tempo, the incessant repetition of short figures, and all within a single minor chord, continuously for 40 minutes: it outminimised minimalism.

Likewise, the performance itself seemed deliberately minimised. The great potential for beauty in the French language, or in finding different shades or emphases for those ever-repeating figures, was nullified in the zombie-like levelness of the mezzo Michelle O’Rourke’s minimalist delivery. Even the welcome appearances of a dancer, Silja Thomsen, soon palled once it was clear that her moves were in constantly repeating patterns.

I have no doubt that, for Sholdice, something of great interior intensity and sincerity was going on here. For the onlooker, however, this was a four-minute idea stretched to 10 times its sustainable duration.

Benedict Schlepper-Connolly’s Heimat (Home) is a meditation on “modern-day nomads – the emigrant, the drifter, the commuter”. The work’s best moments come courtesy of the outside disciplines he imports: his own grainy film clips of seashores, motorway intersections and the view from the train are evocative of journeys to and from home. And the choreography and presence of the dancer Liv O’Donoghue is not only beautiful but powerfully sympathetic, the evening’s highlight.

Musically, Schlepper-Connolly made it hard not to reckon that his approach was modelled on Michael Nyman in his score for The Piano. It meant another 40-minute bout of banal repetition, with the sum total of the text coming via two brief readings and two short, two-chord songs in singer-songwriter style, these performed by Schlepper-Connolly himself.