DanceNorth WestPhysical TheatreReview

Origins – The Lowry, Salford

Directors: Henry McGrath and Ian Morgan
Reviewer: Jo Beggs


If the programme didn’t tell you that this piece of physical theatre explores the life of Cain, struggling with exile from his homeland and living out the guilt of his fratricide, it would be hard to find any kind of narrative in Origins. It’s a work that’s premiering in the Lowry Studio as part of their artist development scheme, and it suffers from that condition that is an inherent risk with devised theatre – where ideas explored during the process are worked to destruction, creating an incoherent finished product.

It’s clear what Charles Sandford (Cain) and Adam Davies (Abel) do best – the poised naked torso, spot-lit to reveal every quivering muscle, the sensuous rotating shoulders, the homo-erotic wrestling. They know it, and they milk it, so that this whole production is really just a string of set physical pieces, all of which have much merit in their slick execution, but which are tediously long, repetitive and dispassionate. The many fight scenes, meticulously and skilfully choreographed, fail to introduce any sense of peril, like the dance of a wrestling match, when this raw story really calls for the brutality of the boxing ring.

What’s worse is that the performances regularly tip over into something of a parody of physical theatre itself – seeing Cain being controlled by an unseen physical force and the miming of hand-washing in a water bowl is like watching drama school workshop exercises. Origins feels like a work in progress where the rest of the production – the bit that really tells the story – is still to be added.

The audience is somewhat distracted from the interesting soundtrack (composed by Oscar Thompson) by much panting, groaning and howling from Sandford and Davies – from the yoga breathing which accompanies Cain trying to get a grip after a particularly violent episode, to the desperate gasps of Abel’s dying moments.

Ultimately,the piece lacks the gravitas that the subject matter deserves, and, given the physical skills of the performers, is a seriously wasted opportunity.

Reviewed on 29 April 2016 | Image: Contributed

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