Theatre People: Reviews
5/12/2017 KRIS WEBBER
Provoking audiences to interrogate how they deal with loss, heartbreak, and failure, Song for a Weary Throat, a collaboration between the equally dynamic Rawcus (who take great pride in featuring artists with and without disability) and Invenio ensembles, is a moving testament to unique kinds of beauty that emerge from pain.
Opening with the image of being at the middle point of life facing a future of blotted uncertainty and featuring a set reminiscent of debris, the temptation to create a work that neatly charts the process of healing and the gradual rebuilding of oneself is cast aside, and a piece brimming with nuance and vitality unapologetically takes its place. Offering an honest and necessarily messy tale of grappling with loss, Song for a Weary Throat is imbued with a delicate sensitivity coupled with bold physical interrogations that coalesce to provide an electric and unforgettable hour of theatre. To those of us who have had their heart broken it provides an all-too-familiar reminder of that experience, one I would argue is akin to being lightly caressed and having the wind knocked out of you all at once: a bittersweet phenomenon captured with integrity across all areas of this stunning production.
Every element of this piece is carefully yet powerfully executed from the necessarily minimal lighting and costuming to the continually restructured sets, the latter of which featured intoxicatingly slow releases of what appeared to be sand from the lighting rig: a striking spectacle. However, the two aspects which stood out for me were Jethro Woodward’s insightful musical direction and the unflinching commitment of the performers. Complimenting fluctuating changes in pace on stage, the sound design and the live accompaniment of the Invenio Ensemble married brutal shocks with ethereal tenderness. Indeed, the stylings of the Invenio trio floating effortlessly between tribal-like guttural tones and exquisite harmonies that radiated through you offered an added layer of finesse to the work. Similarly, the way the actors would transition between scenes of stillness and intense movement as individuals and as a collective was beautiful and relatable. The variations in body shapes on stage and the scene in which the performers are lined upstage, taking turns to come out and dance to their own rhythm felt like a nod to the Tanztheater Wuppertal ensemble and their explorations of how distinct bodies and personalities share the same space and work together both in life and to create art.
Content-wise, a key scene which has stuck with me referred to the desperation of rejection, featuring a female performer asking her peers if they would dance with her, her pleas becoming more frantic as each refuses to either speak to her or look her directly in the eye. Her dejection manifests itself most significantly when, exhausted, she sits herself away from the others and hangs her head in despondence, a crushingly familiar image in an age where people seek companionship with one another but seem to have forgotten how to communicate. Additionally, while the overall poignancy of the work was palpable there were instances of humour smattered throughout which serve to remind audiences that hope can be found in unexpected places and to embrace these ephemeral moments when they do occur.
As Rawcus note in their Ensemble Statement “We all come from different backgrounds and we all have different experiences. We play and work together” and it is this ethos which drives Song for a Weary Throat, a work that is visually arresting, energetic, surprisingly fun, and wonderfully unpredictable.