Sometimes you see an image that just stays in your head – the final image from David Toole’s Unlimited commission 'The Impending Storm' is like that, says Jo Verrent
Actually, that’s not an accurate description – its not only David Toole’s. It’s Lucy Hinds’, Re-Mix Theatre’s, Dom Coyote’s, Sandile Gontsana’s and Mark Storor’s Impending Storm – and another musician too, but I can’t find his name just now. And this is important as the piece is very much a sum of many parts, coming together as parts often do, to stand for very much more than their own individual part.
And for me, the question of whose piece it is is important. This is a truly ensemble piece, yet the fact that Toole’s name is the most known in the UK almost forces the focus – what’s he doing next? When is he back in the frame? I think it took me until about half way through to be able to put down my ‘Toole-googles’ and watch the piece as a whole. (And I’m very aware this probably says more about me as a watcher than it does about the piece itself.
The Impending Storm is a collection of moments swept together by an incredible soundscape driving the piece forwards and highlighting moments of deep emotion – sadness, pain, torment, yet joy in humanity too. It’s not always a comfortable watch. Some of the images are not those you might choose to have in your mind. A woman walks across the hands of others with blood on the soles of her feet and her bed balanced on her head – you watch and feel the meaning of words such as immigration, pain, disposition, story.
The piece is intimate – raw and real. And all human life is here. This is no safe, pretty take on disability dance. This is hot, sexy and provocative. It’s not a coincidence that the major prop on stage is a bed.
The piece has had an unusual gestation – in South Africa, the team ‘tried on’ four different choreographers and theatre makers to see what was possible, and then the piece was made in the UK in the weeks preceding the premiere (and they are coming back together to reshow the piece at the Unlimited Festival at the Southbank in September).
So it was new, and in some places that showed – the use of a sheet that seemed unwieldy, a few sections that could have been tighter or the focus more enhanced. But the piece held – due to the subtle lighting, the stunning music and the tiny moments held in space for us to read the whole of our own lives into. That’s the thing with stories. We all have them, all around us and all of the time. Yet sometimes we just don’t see them until they are played out in front of us.
And the final image? The one that will just stay in my head filling me with laughter and a sense that even in the midst of it all we can smile and find respite in the sheer joy of being alive? I’m not going to spoil it for you – you’ll have to see it for yourselves. But it does involve the bed. And quite a few feathers…
The Impending Storm plays as part of the Unlimited Festival at the Southbank, London on 7-8 September. For details go to http://www.disabilityartsonline.org.uk/Events?item=1578