Fresh from two international commissions, Theo Clinkard returns to his Brighton base to deliver a world premiere of the striking This Bright Field, a two-part exploration of why we look where.
In its first part, an installation of sorts, Clinkard invites us to observe the dancers in close proximity. Positioning ourselves at one of the four sides of the stage, we catch flickers of hands, stolen embraces and sideways glances as the dancers constantly rearrange a series of panels to dictate what we see and don’t see. It is rather intoxicating. We find ourselves questioning who is smiling at who, or where that slapping sound is coming from. Under Guy Hoare’s dim lighting, it all feels very voyeuristic indeed. Particularly startling is a moment in which Crystal Zillwood finds herself face to face with two spectating women, and begins to gently gesture towards her own body, as if beckoning them to look more closely.
The second part, which seats us back in the auditorium, explores more richly what it is to be human, at its most primal and sensory. Experiments with touch, sound and taste permeate the movement.
The beginning is brash and unflinching. Performers emerge as if from nowhere and slither their way onto the stage from the stalls, crumpling and unfurling on their endeavour from floor to feet. Harsh, white lighting illuminates their silhouettes as they begin to discover one another. Before long, the theme of the gaze becomes apparent, as the captivating Leah Marojevic and Stephanie McMann sit alone, twitching: an installation illuminated as their fellow performers observe them from the shadows.
The following chapter is arguably even more primal. A nude Marojevic writhes and stumbles, a naturalistic comment on a material world, accompanied by a scrunched foil bedding of sorts. She bites and hits herself; gestures of bodily dissatisfaction. As more bodies enter the space, though, the corporeal becomes the playful - passionate hair pulls and cheeky slaps suggest a curious sexuality. As the light fades, they gather in a riotous, ritualistic murmuring of song.
The final moments transform the stage into a dressing room, performers tackling Rike Zöllner’s unshapely costumes as James Keane's on-stage drumming builds expectation nicely. Finally, they are totally united, flinging themselves through the space in an energetic sequence adorned with yelps and smiles. Yet, in a nod to Clinkard's advocacy of diversity on-stage, the now-uniform group is still self-expressive; and by this point, we feel we know them. As the panels close in around them, the dancers, in all their heavy adornment, seem at their most free.
A guest blog review for Theo Clinkard's This Bright Field at Brighton Festival on the 25 May by Charlotte Constable