What is it about train journeys that makes me think about the stories of people’s lives. Each passenger has a narrative, a tale to tell, each one written and rewritten, made and remade through memory and imagination.
The set of While you are here described as a ‘new play for dance’ by director Lily Mcleish and choreography Jonathan Goddard was beautiful. It was beguilingly simple with its standing sheaves of corn, a table, two chairs and two doors. A stuffed goose added a note of absurdity and humour. The backdrop a softly changing tableau of skies, birds, windows and numerical dates. The dancers were wonderful to watch, the choreography a nuanced language of the prosaic and everyday layered with the abstract. With the addition of the spoken word, different costumes and props this was indeed a play within a dance.
In While you are here different times, different lives, different stories are elided, like the sliding of doors or the interleaving of the pages of a book. The work was held together by the four characters and repeated motifs; the light, birds, journeys and odours. This was a common story of babies born, of childhood play, of love given and taken away, of work and of death. Death however did not have the final say for the work speaks of lives lived beyond the grave; of traces left behind in the air and in the ground, of ghosts and spirits calling from within the earth and of memories kept alive from generation to generation. Perhaps the cyclical nature of the story made marking the ending tricky, for the piece rather abruptly ran out of steam and sadly just petered out.
Two weeks before I had been one of twelve in a workshop run by Jonathan Goddard at Dance East. In the two hours that we spent with Jonathan he taught us a little of the repertoire of the piece and then talked us through the concepts behind the work. At the time it seemed complex and tricky to grasp, almost like peeling back the layers of an onion under a microscope, examining each minute detail and then trying to put it all back together again.
I tried to hold onto these thoughts as the performance started but this work needed me to be present in the moment; to watch and to wonder at both the complexity and the simplicity of life. For this was an hour in which to be bewitched and whisked away as if by magic and to look back to the past and forward to the future, both known and unknowable.
Reviewed on October 11th at Dance East Ipswich