Riven by decades of conflict, and even now existing in uneasy peace, the capital of Northern Ireland has created in its people a special hardness and resilience, which masks a diffident softness rarely allowed to surface.
All this provides precious material for Oona Doherty’s Hard to Be Soft, which comes to the Queen Elizabeth Hall for one performance only, as part of this year’s edition of Dance Umbrella, DU19.
The performance at the QEH follows a critically acclaimed run at the Edinburgh Festival. The Times critic defined Doherty’s Hard to Be Soft as “a pertinent, carefully assembled production” “marked by an understated intelligence.”
For its part The Guardian concludes a five-star review with: “Sensitive yet unflinching, raw and richly choreographed, Doherty’s dance is a major achievement."
Oona Doherty’s Hard to Be Soft is divided into a number of sections, all contained within a large illuminated cage, designed by Ciaran Bagnall, to a soundtrack devised by DJ David Holmes, that includes recorded Belfast voices and liturgical music.
Doherty herself, dressed in white T-shirt and jogging bottoms, dances a powerful solo, her own take on hyper-masculinity with gestures that are illustration rather than mockery or approval.
In another section two bare-chested men with arms entangled, yet keeping a physical distance, enact a complicated relationship between father and son.
The counterpoint to all that masculine energy is a sequence where thirteen teenage girls offer their own tribal swaggering in a dance that is described as a kind of hip-hop inflected haka.
A highly physical work, Hard to Be Soft is also, as its subtitle states, A Belfast Prayer, in keeping with Oona Doherty’s belief in movement as a catalyst for social change.
Free audience-led post-show talk
|What||DU19 Oona Doherty, Hard to Be Soft, QEH|
|Where||Queen Elizabeth Hall, South Bank Centre, Belvedere Road, SE1 8XX | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Waterloo (underground)|
On 11 Oct 19, 20:00 Dur.: 60 mins approx no interval
|Price||£18-£22 (+ booking fee; concessions available))|
|Website||Click here to book|