Edinburgh Fringe 2019
“‘Look in the mirror and look what you see.’ Join us on a pilgrimage of self acceptance, where society’s norms are ready to be torn down, questioned and re-written. To find the best version of ourselves, we must be willing to re-define our identity. CTC are reformulating the term dance theatre, bringing you original and relevant music and text to enhance the athletic but fluid movement brought by their founder Christopher Tendai.”
CTC Company are a new company of young performers who have taken on the bold challenge of exploring and examining the notion of identity in our self-development and in wider society. They present a dynamic piece centred on dance and movement that also draws upon music and spoken word. I say “dynamic” not only to characterise the performance but also to describe the content, perhaps reflecting the nature of identity itself. That content is taken head-on and the performance that results is intense, often break-neck in terms of pace, and exposes the realm of the digital and mechanical and the resulting turmoil and impact of human beings through skilled, very tight and together movement and dance theatre.
The chosen themes focus us on an individual in society and her attempts to “hold her own” – it is a struggle, an unfolding process that is defined via the movement as a kind of fight, brutal and difficult in parts, but occasionally converging on self-realisation and acceptance. These are Life’s polarities: confusion and certainty, knowing and mystery, acceptance and rejection, stillness and storm.
If navigating through a complex world were not hard enough, we now have the added challenges of the digital realm, the breaking and re-creating self-image, both defined by, and offered to us, via a binary medium, the gateway and the lure of the bright screen that flashes on and off so fast we can’t perceive it and fall, fascinated and captured by its binary power, trance-like, and yet self-experiencing in different states of consciousness, paralysis and freedom all at the same time. This is shown in the piece by changes in mood, form, flow, vicinty, clarity, simplicity and complexity. We join, we share, we fracture and are alone.
Society modifies us, even as we imprint our unique selves upon it, affecting it in turn. I was reminded of some of the physical representation of the film The Matrix in places in this piece – as reality is both influential and malleable.
Throughout an hour that is loaded with inventiveness in both individual and ensemble movement and gesture, we are shown a mirror to our own quest to hold ourselves in society. I was captivated and disturbed by the movement and the music (a thumping original score). Often unrelenting in the formation and fracturing of bodies coming together, breaking and exploding apart, we fall into each other, support each other, connect and disconnect, both physically, emotionally, psychologically and digitally and virtually. These are not easy times to be alive; it is hard to be peaceful and at ease in a hyper turbulent environment. CTC depict all of this, and then bring us back, via simple acoustic songs and spoken word to the bare vulnerability, witty self-discovery of the human condition. Our central character, though she is young, with the vast portion of her life still ahead of her, presents herself as a tired old soul, who has lived, loved and lost!
The piece is, in parts, dense, overloaded with its inventive and creative content. In further development, less can be more, parts can be pared back a bit, simplified and some self-enclosed set pieces need to flow more easily from one to another for, though this is not an overtly narrative piece, there is a narrative flow in there and it is helpful to the audience as witness. We need not be unnecessarily confused. A bit of unneeded repetition could be edited out or used more consciously to deepen the inquiry further.
I was thrilled throughout the performance, left with many an image and effect still resonating, and the questions the piece poses are still lingering in me as I write this review. It is a fine ensemble performance. A very promising production from this new company; it is exciting work indeed.