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> > > Decibel09 showcase in Manchester - first day report

by Jon Pratty

Photo shows head and shoulders portrait of a man speaking at a microphone photo by Jon Pratty/dao

Tony Panayiotou gets the day going at decibel09

Image: photo by Jon Pratty/dao

Dao is covering Arts Council England's lively and fascinating decibel09 showcase in Manchester with a small team of volunteer writers and snappers. We're writing, uploading, Twittering, and putting stuff on our Flickr stream and our Facebook group, too, so check those places out as well.

Tuesday at decibel09 began with a networking get-together led by ACE's Director of Diversity, Tony Panayiotou. Tony made us all sound off round the room very quickly, which was fun. It took a while, as there are over 400 delegates this year from all over the world.

photo of four young guys dancing really hard and one in the centre has a nike t-shirt by Jon Pratty/dao

Wild and wonderful, loud and full of jokes too...Decypher Collective

Image: by Jon Pratty/dao

After a busy networking lunch, delegates walked around the corner from the Town Hall to the Library Theatre to catch The Decypher Collective perform 7SIXTEEN32.

The boys from Brum are morphing UK Grime culture, music and moves into a more theatrical setting, working with Birmingham Rep. These were great sounds and sights, and really dynamic work to appeal all sorts of audiences.

Next up was a short trip to Contact Theatre to see The Fathom Project in Slight. Fathom are an international collective with and without disabilities; Slight makes full dramatic use of all of the collective's particular physical perspectives.

Slight mixes an apparently complex narrative with moments of real poignancy; to my eyes it was about love lost, love gained and love lost again.

photo shows shadows of figures on a theatre backdrop by Jon Pratty/dao

Use of light and shadow by Fathom created intriguing shapes on the backdrop, transforming and re-shaping the performers.

Image: by Jon Pratty/dao

Slight reminded me of work by Forced Entertainment, the Sheffield-based physical theatre collective. Fathom were different, though, of course, and to these eyes, the group's mix of performers with and without disabilities added a new dimension to this kind of work.

Whilst watching physical theatre, if you're close enough, you wonder about stagecraft and how they're going to do it all. Fathom take risks and the risks are worth it.

A figure in red prances and preens in this photo by Jon Pratty/dao

Masses of humour and great movement in Anjali Dances' Genius

Image: by Jon Pratty/dao

Coaches took us to the greenroom to enjoy a first view of Genius, by Anjali Dance, the pioneering UK company of dancers with learning disabilities.

Genius began in an workshop with everyone improvising around a theme they chose; amazingly that workshop was only ten days before this 'work in progress' gig.

You would never have imagined it - here was well-worked visual humour mixed with commentary about the world we live in, and the way we treat each other as specimens, and much more.

I really liked all the jokes about farting, and there were bits where we had to get out of our seats [well one person did, anyway] and clean the floor!

Considering this was towards the end of the first afternoon of decibel, the way Anjali engaged us was great. More fun was to follow with Lisa Hammond and Rachael Spence at the Royal Exchange...

head and shoulders photo of a woman with a top hat on singing and dancing by Jon Pratty/dao

Lisa Hammond gives it everything in her Chas and Dave-stylee song and dance moment. It has a very rude ending!

Image: by Jon Pratty/dao

Lisa Hammond and Rachael Spence grabbed us all by the eyes and ears for a simple but bold experiment in recording reality and replaying it, in another, slightly different dramatic context.

To start off No Idea, their work in progress we peeked at in the Royal Exchange, Lisa and Rachael went out on the streets and asked people what they thought they should do for the next peice of work.

Fascinating but often completely ordinary responses followed, which Lisa and Rachael acted out. From the daft to the politically correct, all drew laughs in this new context.

To finish things off, Lisa did a showstopping song and dance routine bringing to life the numerous recorded comments about her smiling, cheeky face...

Lots more music and dance carried on well into the night all over the city after the conference reception at the magnificent Town Hall. Your writer retired to nurse his vocal chords back to life. More to come...