Dublin Theatre Festival review | Wallflower: A dance that sidesteps the obvious

Manchester’s adventurous company Quarantine uses dance as a portal to the imagination


Project Arts Centre


Like reluctant participants in karaoke, audience members sidle into their seats. In the centre of the space, Jo Fong is welcoming us, clicking her fingers and trying to remember lyrics from West Side Story. Across the floor, Greg Akehurst searches for the soundtrack on his laptop. Audience participation seems inevitable, but in this, and in many other ways, these performers sidestep the obvious.

The adventurous company Quarantine, from Manchester, often uses dance as a portal to the imagination. In developing this piece, three performers were asked by director Richard Gregory to recreate every dance they have ever danced in their lives. Each performance includes a selection of these dances, jotted down by a fourth member of the group (Nic Green), undertaking a task of recording that rotates between them each night. What begins as improvisation becomes an ever-expanding archive.

Each of the three takes turns to dance, choosing whatever comes to mind: snatches of musicals, pulsing reggae or teenage anthems from the Undertones. Sonia Hughes, Jo Fong and James Monaghan dance their hearts out, reliving the past and embodying their younger selves. Fong is a professionally trained dancer who at times tries to emulate the artful artlessness of Hughes and Monaghan. Some of the movements are small, domestic gestures: Monaghan opening a cupboard with a backwards shimmy or flamboyantly flipping pancakes.

The trio’s lack of fear of the inconsequential is the strength and the risk of this experimental game. Mostly they succeed in holding our attention, but the audience’s patience is certainly tested, especially when they struggle to remember a music track, or get stuck in a groove of similar moves.

The aleatory nature of the performance means that its ability to affect the audience will vary hugely each night, as each spectator's memories or emotions are triggered by different music. With the mood shifting from whimsy to wistfulness, it ended last night with Al Green's For The Good Times, with poignantly swirling lights. What began as a studio exercise becomes a means of exploring the difference between remembering and inventing afresh, between allowing ourselves full expressive freedom or being a wallflower. Until September 26th