And almost inevitably, Blackburn chose for her score sections from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, the masterpiece created when the composer was practically deaf.
Cas Public’s 9 targets children without patronising or speaking down to them. Children are present throughout the work, which was devised in collaboration with the Belgian youth theatre company Kopergietery. They appear on a video projected at intervals on the backcloth; and children are picked from the audience to take part in the performance.
The stage is littered with wooden chairs, of sizes that range from just big enough for children to sit on (at one point they engage in an ever faster game of musical chairs with the dancers), to miniatures with which they are encouraged to build fragile towers.
The dancing proper starts when Cai Glover removes his hearing aid and places it on a chair, mirroring the actions of a child on the video.
Glover is joined by his colleagues – three other men and one woman all dressed in severe black suits – in an energetic, syncopated choreography based on assertive and exaggerated sign language. Finger clicks are used at regular intervals.
Beethoven’s recorded Ninth Symphony doesn’t make an entrance until about 20 minutes into the piece; and when it does, mid-stream, it goes through a variety of sonorities: sometimes loud to the point of distortion, sometimes fuzzy as if played under water, sometimes going back on itself and coming across just as a fragment.
A caption on the video tells us it’s pretty much impossible to simulate hearing loss in the way you can simulate blindness simply by closing your eyes – one of the sequences of 9, in which the children on stage participate, is a game of blind man’s buff.
9 is not, therefore, an attempt to simulate hearing loss, but rather an impressionistic take on its subject, using Cas Public’s trademark high energy dancing in the tempo of an unflagging allegro vivace, a bit like jerky classical ballet on speed.
At times the stage children look slightly bemused, probably as much as some of the adults in the audience; and we’re all taken by surprise at the appearance on stage of a remote controlled model VW Beetle, that weaves its way through the feet of the dancers for the latter part of the piece.
Cas Public’s dancers are exceptionally good; and 9, though not providing answers, furnishes both children and grown ups with many pertinent questions through an engaging, energising and highly original performance.
Age Guidance: 5+
|What||Cas Public, 9, Linbury Review|
|Where||Royal Opera House, Bow Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9DD | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Covent Garden (underground)|
25 May 19 – 30 May 19, 14:45 Sun 16:00 Thur 19:00 Dur.: 50 mins no interval
|Website||Click here to book|