Brighton Fringe 2010
Daniel Somerville’s physical exploration of what it is to be alone is a challenging and thought provoking piece of movement theatre. Using influences of Butoh, vaudeville and opera, the audience is taken on a journey into the soul of this very watchable performer.
From 11th to 16th May, Coachwerks hosted the world premiere of Daniel Somerville’s Three Works. The opening piece – I’m Leaving You is a solo movement work that imagines the internal emotional landscape of a person after someone tells them ‘I’m leaving you’. White faced and casually dressed, Somerville spends elaborate moments literally crumbling before our eyes. This is a fusion of sound and movement so intense as to draw attention to every flicker of muscle spasm. It took a while to slow down after rushing to the venue to savour this intricacy fully, but once I’d made this transition, I was quite happy to sit back and watch the stages that Somerville guided us through. And the soundscape accompanying each work was as intriguing as the performance unfolding before our eyes .
The second piece – First Piano Concerto explores being alone in a crowd and an individual’s journey to self-acceptance in society. It was introduced by the self-effacing, softly spoken Somerville explaining that he’s ‘not a dancer or an actor, not even really a musician’ and what we see is, in fact ,simply the journey of a man trying to define his place in the world. It creates a raw and at times rather disturbing piece that sees him slowly stripping himself naked and reaching in desperation from his foetal position on the floor to an audience member who had no option but to go to him and help him stand up. There then followed a joyous bubble machine moment, involving yet others in the audience dancing with this now rejuvenated character.
The final piece, My Egyptian Stories is an opera based on Somerville’s personal association with Egypt and concentrating on the persecution of gay men by the police there. The opening movement was appropriately disconcerting, with the performer standing with a mug, seemingly of tea, singing in near faultless falsetto about a crocodile. This moved into an Egyptian head-dressed development of the theme, until finally, the character was stripped to bloodied underwear, ‘alone in a darkened room’.
This was not always an evening of easy listening/watching, but it offered the opportunity to share in an exploration of a range of human experience from this accomplished performer.