The moneyed elite hold a certain fascination, and their antics were traditionally weird on Dublin’s palatial Merrion Square. With occupants like Jane Wilde and W.B. Yeats, these Georgian homes are remembered for hosting séances, poetry salons and obscure Japanese dance theatre. Gaining access to one such premises (the elegant Goethe-Institut), choreographer Liz Roche’s new site-specific production puts shape on memories about the area. Devised with theatre maker Shane O’Reilly, it introduces us to a mix of characters.
When a man (Henry Montes) writhes and titters against a description of someone’s early romance, it seems that the past is wrestling its way into the present. Roche’s choreography seeks out unnerving rhythms and rotating bodies to suggest a place where time is on repeat. Inside a drawing room, a woman from a previous decade (Anne-Laurie Dogot) fascinatingly struggles to hold her poise. A tightly-knitted trio releases glimpses of emotional support, desire and possibly even violence. (At one point, the determined Kevin Coquelard ushers a figure away, as if to avoid a scene). These individuals are interesting but it’s clear that one past resident takes precedence. This is really a return to W.B. Yeats’s home, in a frustrating dance that moves through indigestible chunks of theory about the writer.
A pull towards Yeats isn’t surprising for Roche, whose dance Bastard Amber found inspiration in his theatre and poetry. But here what meanings can be gleaned, for instance, when dancers arrange and rearrange a cloth depicting a mountain and sky on it, other than a sly nod to Yeats’s dance plays? Though it’s curious to think of those works being recreated in this setting, they’re referenced here as if used in a thesis. Yeats believed that dead people dream backwards. One scholar’s theory – which we hear in a classroom – is that they’re searching for a moment that defines them. This too is the dance’s intended provocation to its audience.
There are some compelling moments. Finola Cronin gracefully moves through one woman’s life alone. The excellent performers of the Dublin Youth Dance Company create a compelling mob of ghosts, consoling and competing against each other. However, the dance’s dream-search is too intangible to sustain. It’s a long time since Sarah Jane Scaife gave Yeats’s plays uncanny movement in the Abbey Theatre’s avant-garde productions from the early 1990s. Why not have a go at them next?
Näher….Closer, Nearer, Sooner is on at Goethe-Institut, Dublin, until 23rd September. More info here.