Choreography comes from Jonathan Goddard, one of the most riveting dancers around, now forging a successful career as a choreographer and movement director.
The text for While You Are Here is by playwright Eve Leigh, whose work, shown in a number of small London theatres over the past decade or so, has been generally well received.
So what went wrong?
While You Are Here is an episodic work that purports to portray the nature of time, not as a linear entity, but in all its capriciousness and occasional circularity.
A succession of dates is projected onto the back panel sometimes slowly, sometimes in a vertiginous sequence. Past, present and future coexist and clash, snippets of stories take to the stage, either through fragmented – and frankly pretentious – dialogue, or through dance.
Goddard’s choreography is generous in the amplitude of its movement, but not hugely interesting; and coming at us in short bursts does little to tell a story or offer characterisation. One exception is a sequence for the two women as they discover first love and abandon their bodies to the daze and joy of it.
Elsewhere, two men sit down and methodically pluck two birds, leaving the stage littered with feathers; a woman (Hannah Kidd) loudly goes through the agony of giving birth; the four hold a seance on the very spot where centuries ago Lady Margaret was burnt as a witch, only to flee screaming shrilly when they think contact has indeed been made.
Well into the future, two technicians in bright orange overalls working underneath the city ponder the usefulness of punishment for the killer of the woman whose centuries-old bones they’ve found.
It’s as if Leigh and McLeish have seen too much Pina Bausch and fallen under the spell of her seemingly chaotic, but in fact rather tightly knit work. Mercifully, at 75 minutes, While You Are Here doesn’t attempt to emulate Pina’s three-hour-plus endurance tests.
What does work are sets, lighting and projections. With the stage representing a room, the back wall is a panel upon which impressionistic projections create a setting, for example, a field in summer, or the brutalist underground of a city of the future. Stanley Orwin-Fraser’s painterly projections are a delight.
Lighting, too, care of Lucy Hansom, does its job sublimely, the spotlights complemented by floor lighting along two sides of the room, with intensity and colour varying to great effect.
And Akhila Krishnan’s production design, complemented by Joe Walkling's set and props, is extremely pleasing to the eye. Max Pappenheim's soundscore is discreet and serviceable.
Age Guidance: 12+
|What||While You Are Here, Goddard & McLeish review|
|Where||The Place, 17 Duke's Road, London, WC1H 9PY | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Euston (underground)|
15 Oct 19 – 16 Oct 19, 19:30 Dur.: 1 hour 15 mins no interval
|Price||£17 (concessions £13)|
|Website||Click here to book|