16 - 28 October, HBAF18 By Jess Soutar Barron
Soundscape artist Rosie Langabeer, Slam Poet Champ Sara Hirsch and dancers Champa Maciel and Sophie Follett have co-created a moving work for the Festival’s street performance offering.
Meta begins with cinematic verve commanding attention from the bemused, amused, confused bystanders in this Hastings’ inner-city park. Once the performers have all-eyes they unfold a charade of constrained domesticity. Equal parts tai chi and a kind of robotic housework, Follett and Maciel deliver up a suite of gestures and physical forms that build to become a factory of delivery and then a mania of repetition.
The two cleverly create a cube of space to play out this narrative. Perfectly set on the giant public chess board, these pawns deliver a series of wave sequences as if creating three-dimensionality from movements that feel binary in their motivation. The buzz and prattle of electro-magnetic background sounds take the audience away from this greenspace to somewhere industrial and dystopic.
Although the title Meta hints at a breakdown of the fourth-wall, in fact the players are building walls in front of us, with swoops of their arms and flicks of their hands and the concerted concentration on their faces: focused, determined, and completely oblivious to us watching.
This piece takes memes from feminist political discourse and replaces nouns and pronouns with a generic, all-encompassing “human”: “You should know your place human”, “You’re a good driver, for a human”, “Humans aren’t that good at making people laugh”, “This is no place for a human”. This is commentary on the human condition at its most universal, but still domestic and welcoming in its proportions.
As the movements flow to be softer forms they are more acceptable and harmonious, easier to take. The jarring of early fembots trapped in a transparent Truman Show box evolves to become two sweet and sassy ingénues dancing in a park.
But then that too switches as feminine becomes fatigued then frantic. The suite of movements converts to a series of linked ticks and then a spasm and a full stop: Hysteria and neurosis at a sudden realisation by the actors that they are being watched. It is only human-to-human touch that brings the player back to herself, movements become looser and freer. It is only a hug that saves them.
Follett’s serenity and Maciel’s mastery of microgestures complement each other, letting the piece move from learnt choreography to natural expression; Langabeer’s use of Hirsch poetry gives the piece depth and context.
The work does need a little bedding in, there’s a pent-up freneticism that will relax as the piece reaches maturity, but even in its budding form this is well-worth tracking down and watching on repeat. It’s an evolving piece that is base human in its intention and so constantly changing and rearranging itself to fit the space.
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