Choreography, Writing and Performance: Es Morgan
Dramaturg: Charlie Ashwell
Sound Design: Wordcolour
Es Morgan, who likes to be referred to as they/them, present what is described as ‘a dance, a poem, a fit of rage, an exorcism and a queer, secular hymn to the impending capitalist apocalypse’. Whilst that may sound pretty all-encompassing this performance is much more even than that, being totally absorbing, challenging and confrontational too. Its aspect of extreme physical theatre starts right from the offing as Morgan stands rocking back and forth, crawls and writhes around, totally taking control of every inch of the theatre space.
They demand our attention with angular balletic movements contrasted with stretching, spasms and jerks and turning into slow-motion repetitive gestures. There are spins, flights and tumbles as if at some debauched rave. All this is set against the electronica of Wordcolour who produce explosive patterns of spiralling sounds that complement the dance with a heightened sense of impact and meaning.
At one point, after some redolent libertine breakouts, Morgan are restrained as if handcuffed, and then pushed with their back to the wall. All this seems to have profound symbolism and its sense of spontaneity belies, I suspect, some brilliantly planned choreography. At times Morgan provoke a dizzying feeling for the spectator with the frenetic frantic movement surrounding the senses.
When the music fades into silence the poetic narrative, begun in the intro as a series of pointed pertinent questions, turns into a queer manifesto on the nature of gender. There are many witty and punchy plays on words in their fast-paced rant. This is fuelled by a radical and existential angst that not only attacks capitalism but our social conformity in general. In fact they have so many issues to have a go at that, at times, we are bewildered and bemused, but this is probably part of their cunning plan.
The narrative progresses into a kind of bizarre mindfulness meditation. We are encouraged to envision an endless corridor with numbered doors in which we act out our role as a cartoon character of choice. Morgan describe shifting shapes leading into a sinking feeling, until we are cast into darkness.
Excellent use is made of the sparse but inventive props, including a blow-up plastic chair, a desk with microphone and laptop and, most mysteriously of all, three boxes. As to the latter it would be spoiler to reveal their part in the piece, but suffice to say Morgan end up totally submerged and out of the audience’s sight in a weird kind of magic trick. The costumes also deserve noting, going from trousered to robed and finally in revealing stockings, blouse and platform boots.
There is no doubt that Morgan aim to shock and disturb, and at this they succeed. But beyond this there is a thoughtful ruminating overview that is considered and realistic. Appropriating the word ‘queer’ into a domain of performance that references both the physical theatre of the likes of DV8 and more comedic drag, Morgan are ambassadors of queer capable of sheer bloody genius.
Reviewed on 2nd July as part of Yorkshire Dance’s Climate Encounters Festival