Part of the Homotopia programme, this unimaginatively named evening belied the wonderful variety of performance to be found within. Led by an all female line up of performers, the three pieces were a combination of funny, touching, gaudy, gentle and thought-provoking works that fitted together for an entertaining mix.
Leed-based De Nada Dance Theatre’s Young Man! was a duet inspired by the films of Pedro Almovodar, exploring the concept of gender as female performers played out scenes of homoerotic tension. With plenty of Spanish passion, flamenco-style drama and physical theatre, it was a piece that said a lot in a simple and beautiful way.
It was followed by Cameo Cookie, choreographed by long-time Homotopia cohort Gary Clarke and performed by Eleanor Perry. The 20 minute performance portrayed the life of Anita Bryant, a 1970s American beauty queen and singer who went on to become a prominent anti-gay activist. Clarke’s choreography mocks and cartoonifies its subject matter, as Perry lip synchs and acts out Bryant’s religious background and rise to fame. Bryant’s campaigning eventually nearly finished her career, resulting in a conclusion to Cameo Cookie that sees Perry, unable to beat ’em, joining ’em, with the Unity space turned into something of a hedonistic gay club, complete with dancers wearing little more than their Emporium Armani undies. It’s a bit (deliberately) crass, and certainly unsubtle. Some segments were a bit overlong, but compellingly psychedelic despite bringing to mind the performance art episode of Spaced; but Perry’s performance was fun and worth a watch.
For many, including myself, the main attraction of the triple bill would have been the final piece, Variations of the Heart. Choreographed by Elinor Randle of Liverpool’s Tmesis Theatre, this female love story contained many of their recognisable trademarks as well as involving the talents of some long-time collaborators.
A short spoken word intro came courtesy of Chris Fittock, grounding the piece in reality through the character of a scientist breaking the concept of love down to its chemical bare bones. The performers, Eleni Edipidi and Ellen Turner (last seen flinging spaghetti all over the theatre in Tmesis’s Physical Fest), then demonstrated how it never is as simple as that – charting a journey from birth, through childhood and adolescence, to the intensity of first love.
Similar to Tmesis’s 2009 work The Dreadful Hours, which also followed a romantic relationship from beginning to end, it beautifully captured that very human, very recognisable story arc, from the first flushes of passion to the gradual growing apart. The music, performed live, was from Egle Mei’s musical project Heart Variations for String Quartet, composed by Meike Holzmann. As ever, full of beautiful observations, tender performances and with a well-told human story at its core, as a company Tmesis once again showed what a class act it really is.
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© Vicky Anderson 2013