The North: a place of mystical, barren landscapes, snow, warmth and hospitality, legends… or just anywhere above Watford, depending on where you’re from.
It’s a sense of this fluid environment that Joan Clevillé Dance attempts to conjure in its second full-length work, The North. The stage is bare and white, a single fir tree in the centre. With a flurry of white, pyramid-shaped ‘snow’, a collection of camping gear, and a few toy cars, Clevillé’s production manages to capture the essence of that shifting landscape.
Into this minimalist space enter three eccentric characters. Through a combination of text and movement they bring to light the unseen details of their world. There are some beautifully poetic moments when words and physical action unite, the performer’s movements filling the space between their sentences, giving depth and life to the relationships that begin to unfold.
At other times it’s incredibly silly; cartoonish sounds replace speech and the women shift their physicality between various animals. They seem as mad as they are wise and, on repeated occasions, tie reindeer antlers to their heads. Yet it’s not without reason – each element adds to the larger picture, and besides, it’s enjoyable to watch something in which the performers are ready and willing to make fun of themselves.
Gradually, the eclectic elements of this work are gathered together as John (performer John Kendall), a character who seems uncertain as to how he arrived there, recollects his memories with the assistance of the two female performers (Solene Weinachter and Eve Ganneau) – the apparent inhabitants of this limbo-like space.
In the end, the full story behind this work – the how and why these characters came to be where they are – is never fully revealed. Fragments of an idea are presented and the imagination is left to create the rest. It’s the key to the success of this curious piece.
Just as John embarks on a journey of discovery, so do the audience. The idea of finding oneself somewhere new, the ensuing sense of loss and confusion, are evoked rather than presented. Ultimately, the suggested ideas and images of the piece are not resolved, but that is what gives this work its humanity. The conclusion of acceptance – of oneself and ones circumstance – is real and relatable.
The North was at The Place on November 8th, and is on a UK tour until November 26th. For more details, click here.