DanceDramaReviewSouth West

Etch – The Barbican Theatre, Plymouth

Devised by: Heather Walrond, Laura Henry, Lucy Freeman and Victoria Malin
Original score: Magdalena Walker
Director: Claire Summers
Reviewer: Karen Bussell

South West dance company with a difference, and making a difference, Exim brings a layered reminiscent piece invoking childhood memories and joie de vivre.

tell-us-block_editedThe four white-clad dancers make their presence felt long before a note is played or a toe is pointed, embodying their emblematic inclusiveness by sitting around the auditorium, chatting as the audience select their seats – whether that be in the traditional tiers, on benches on the stage or reclining on large beanbags.

And so they remain as the show opens with a trackie-wearing talented young troupe from the company’s dance education promotion venture Making Waves Project weaving, ebbing and flowing in a short and simple but sweet piece.

A short break ensues as white cubes are rolled on stage and a party starts with an invitation to explore the contents, drink tea and sniff non-dodgy herbs and coconut oil. Inclusive? Yes; worthwhile? Not so sure as at least the less able-bodied and more curmudgeonly watch on wallflower-like as a certain level of overlong mayhem, wandering, wondering and shabby village hall cake sale atmosphere prevails. So far, not so sure.

But the cross art Etch is worth waiting for. The seemingly pretentious premise of inclusiveness in all its forms at times bewilders with overload but generally has merit as the quartet meld and mither with a strong pinch of nostalgia.

Victoria loves the sunlight and her garden, Heather adores anything to do with water, bendy Lucy recalls her disastrous kite-flying and dog dragging days while Laura is very agile. Delicate and dynamic solo vignettes display great skill and individualism while beautifully timed pas de deux, trois and ensemble work is engaging and athletic with some superbly inventive lifts.

A quite charming embodiment of youthful summer days as four friends cavort, irritate, mock and irritate one another. Innocent fun and, as advertised, a journey of remembrance.

But back to that inclusiveness: Not only do we have music and movement but there is a running commentary on the unfolding dance – plank, stretch… changing the light bulb(?) – with amusing asides, poetry and song. British Sign Language has been incorporated into choreographed gestures and mindful body language. Multi-dimensional indeed and it does work.

And there is plenty online too – all four performers have recorded descriptions of themselves, their costumes and the set, Natalie Mcgrath’s text is available on request as an audio file or hard copy and the programme can be accessed as an audio download.

Meier Williams’s costuming is exquisite and production design simplistic allowing the clearly talented quartet to stamp their characters on the show.

On tour until 2 July 2017 | Image: Claire Summers

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