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Notes from a Wallflower – Monday 17th August

Quarantine was established in 1998 by directors Richard Gregory and Renny O’Shea with designer Simon Banham. We make original theatre, performance and public events with and about the people who are in it. Whatever form it takes, our work begins and ends with the people in the room. Over the last 20 years, we've collaborated with a shifting constellation of artists, performers and people who've never done anything like this before. Our work seeks to create the circumstances for a conversation between strangers...

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Notes from a Wallflower – Monday 17th August

Posted: 25 August 2015

As we approach the end, I’m reminded of how the work seems – to me – to be always asking, what is a dance? Sonia in the oval auditorium, with 60s panelling, remembers a dance that takes place after the concert. She roots herself firmly into the ground and beats her right hand into the air on the drumbeat. She reminisces, ‘maybe I feel like I’m doing it, but I’m not actually doing it’. 

Nic describes her only memory of her grandmother. She says, ‘the rest is photographs’. She’s in a supermarket – or somewhere with lots of industrial freezers. ‘Where were we?’ – She searches. ‘I just screamed and screamed and screamed and cried.’ She performs a movement that is Nic as her girl-child self being grabbed by the arm and dragged away from one of the freezers by her grandmother. ‘So yeah, that’s a dance’ she says. 

Perhaps flowing from the memory of a grandparent, described by Nic, Jo remembers a time when during rehearsals for a performance she had found out her grandfather had died. There’s a particular point in the dance when she finds herself thinking about him. 

The narrative moves on again, like a shift in conversation, to what I think is a more domestic tone. Nic asks for Kate Bush. ‘I don’t know all the words but I like to make the noises’. She’s washing up, or maybe doing the hoovering. ‘We’ve got this rug and it’s covered in dog hairs. I’ve got the little attachment on the hoover and I’m really going for it. I’ve got headphones on.’ 

Sonia replies to this with a duet with her mum at the launderette. Then there’s another response, from Nic, that links with the theme I am picking up on, not through an explicit mention of the domestic or the mundane, but the action she’s performing. It’s a sort of folding down of the body, which makes me think of folding clothes, of the soft buckling of fabric falling to the ground. In fact, it’s a memory from a workshop by a guy from Hungary. 

I seem to gravitate towards these narrative threads, following them to their natural conclusions. And there are these corners (perhaps the ones Nic identified in her map) where I get stuck in certain details of dances, like hoovering up dog hair, the odd movements as you open a cupboard door (performed by James), the lovely black crepe material of Jo’s skirt in one of her dances, Nic upside down on a chair with her head on the floor and a handkerchief up her nose, the very pretty, blonde Dutch girl who that feller had an affair with, or the kick administered to a rude bus user by Sonia that never really happened.

– Dani Abulhawa

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