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Solos Project: Burton Taylor Studio, Oxford
Five of the six performers in the Solos Project have created their own piece, which means that original intention and execution on the stage are closely knit. The sixth work is by Susie Crow, the producer of this show.
First on was Hannah de Cancho,whose skills include cabaret and physical theatre. This was clear from the opening, which found her hanging by her arms from one of the theatre’s roof girders. The piece is Routed, and the programme contains the quote “a universe of possibility, go where there is no path, through obstacles, becoming part of all being”. Certainly, the small size of the stage is no obstacle – Hannah utilises the walls and every inch of floor an athletic exposition of that philosophy.
All the costumes in this show are specially designed by Celia Perkins, and in Hoop, Fiona Millward (pictured)wears one that illustrates the title – a stiff blue skirt with scarlet lining, the edge stiffened out into a hoop, worn over much displayed red pantaloons. Its red piping glows in the dark, as does the huge white collar that tops it off. “I’m 42”, she tells us. “I have a job and a relationship. I’m yearning for a dog more than a baby. I want you to feel happy!” she declaims, jumping with outstretched arms. But I thought she seemed sad.
Boom or Bust is Crow’s piece for Debbie Camp; a reflection on the current financial crisis. Dressed as an exotic showgirl, Debbie gives us a sample of the hoofer she is, before removing much of her decoration, including her multi-coloured bustle, and packing them into a box. The symbolism is clear.
Ruth Pethybridge is an engaging performer, and Love After Love is about a woman seeking a good relationship with herself. This is really about loneliness. “The time will come” she says, “when you greet yourself in your own mirror”.
This is a well thought out, well danced piece, with a burst of optimism in the choreography before ending in loneliness.
Thomas J. M. Wilson is a physical theatre performer. In Solo #4: Blotter He emerges from darkness into nothing more than gloom, in a startling hooded costume reminiscent of the Elephant Man, but with deep-coloured, bold stripes from invisible head to foot.
It’s inspired by the Blotter figures of the Spanish artist Juan Munoz. Wilson’s work is a response to the restrictions of the costume, and a triumph in creating an intense atmosphere with minimal movement.
Finally came the most satisfying work of the evening, Anuradha Chaturvedi’s Tarana. Chaturvedi is an exponent of Kathak dance, with its characteristic high-speed stamping with ankle-bells, and fast turns. In this accomplished performance, her lightness of foot and expressive arms conveyed both a philosophical seriousness and great personal charm.