Now, Cunningham goes one step further; and the result is perplexing.
Following a stellar career in contemporary dance, Julie Cunningham has chosen to base her development as a choreographer on explorations of identity and gender; and for her latest work she picked the text of Crave by the late playwright Sarah Kane.
Sarah Kane (1971 - 1999) became famous – or infamous – for smashing the mould of traditional British theatre, and for the extreme and graphic violence enacted in her first works. But violence was just one of her playwright’s tools. Alongside, she used poetic language to excavate the meanings of pain, sexual desire, and ultimately the human condition.
Crave, her fourth play, dispenses with physical violence and, as well, with much theatrical convention, consisting essentially of unrelated characters speaking fragments of stories, troubling memories of rape, violence, loss, asking questions, trying to make sense of it all.
The bleakness and despairing tone of Crave clearly appealed to Julie Cunningham; and she has her ensemble of eight female performers – four actors and four dancers – all clad in monochrome white and grey, speak the entire text of the play.
There’s no faulting the performances, as the women deliver themselves with great conviction of fragments such as ‘sick of herself and wishing something would happen to make life begin...’ or ‘there are worse things than being fat and 50: being dead and 30.’
That’s it, really. Whatever choreography there is consists of moving the women around the stage in intense and mostly anguished bursts, brows frowned, bare feet stomping, with the occasional episode where two women come face to face and briefly touch. Dancing as such is but a minute part of the whole, and consists mostly of individual poses with no continuity and no apparent relation to the text.
There are tantalisingly brief snatches of the extraordinary dancer that Julie Cunningham once was, a foot stretched, leg raised in arabesque, her wiry body aligned to perfection. Blink, though, and you miss it.
So, it’s hard to write a dance review of a piece that may mean a lot to the choreographer, but has little to do with dance, even allowing for the need for the art form to break barriers and develop new formats.
Julie Cunningham knows her trade, she has an inquiring mind and clearly a burning desire to break new ground. She must not be dismissed as irrelevant to contemporary dance – far from it; but we hope the current stage in her career will lead to the development of works where dance is the protagonist rather than a simple add-on.
|What||Julie Cunningham, Crave Review|
|Where||Barbican Centre, Silk Street, London, EC2Y 8DS | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Barbican (underground)|
10 May 18 – 13 May 18, 19:45 Sat 12 May mat. 14:30 Dur.: 1 hour no interval
|Price||£18 (+booking fee)|
|Website||Click here to book via the Barbican|