Candoco, the company for disabled and non-disabled dancers, regularly collaborates with Sadler's Wells; but surely no previous collaboration can have been as original as the one that resulted in their new film, Cuckoo.
Shown as part of the extensive Sadler's Well's Digital Stage In Focus programme, Cuckoo's central input comes from The Alternative Limb Project, an organisation set up by Sophie de Oliveira Barata to turn prosthetics into wearable works of art.
For Cuckoo, Sophie de Oliveira Barata has created an elaborately sculpted prosthetic leg to fit the dancer Welly O'Brien, who lost her own leg in an accident, and subsequently became a stalwart of Candoco.
Culture Whisper spoke to Welly O'Brien to hear more about his extraordinary project. First, we asked her to describe the bespoke artificial leg and her reaction to it.
'The leg is made of [cherry] wood and has a brass pendulum, a working cuckoo clock and a bell in it – I love it! I'd love to be able to keep it; obviously, it's a lovely piece of artwork which is very special. I think it's really fun. Rory Thompson has done the electronics, so they put lots of work into it. It's also got a shoe incorporated into it, which is beautiful.'
The film with this artificial limb as a central focus has a narrative thread running through it, says Welly O'Brien: 'Obviously, it's about time, and what time means to me, because I'm a performer, so it's a strange time for me, really a strange time for everybody at the moment. We've been working with that idea: facing time, reversing time, forging time, holding time still.'
Cuckoo was filmed at Tate Modern, which, 'was glorious!' O'Brien told us. 'We wanted the vastness of the space, and also lots of close-ups of the leg, because it's really beautifully carved and designed.'
It is not, however, the sort of limb you could walk or dance in for any length of time, being made of wood, and therefore quite heavy. But nor is it meant to be used that way: 'In the film you see the difference between me wearing it and not wearing it, and in between it being an art piece with me connected to it from afar, or close up, and my relationship with it.'
We can only say, our appetite is well and truly whetted!
|What||Sadler's Wells & Candoco, Cuckoo|
|Where||Online | MAP|
30 Nov 20 – 31 Jan 21, Available to watch online from 30 November