Edinburgh Fringe 2013
Lost Dog’s It Needs Horses is being presented in a double-bill with Home for Broken Turns. Both are intricate dance pieces incorporating exuberant voice, rich imagery, and interesting use of materials. Supported by Escalator East to Edinburgh and a slew of other funding bodies and arts networks, Lost Dog is a company with pedigree, and these shows are intriguing examples of their work that serve as good explanations for their success.
This is a double-bill – two acts both being presented by Lost Dog. Home for Broken Turns is first on the bill. Bare-foot girls (Joan Clevillé, Nina Madelaine, Lise Manavit, and Rachele Rapisardi, with Solène Weinachter) dressed in faded country dresses swirl, flock, and swoop across the stage, now clawing at one another, now sharing lamentation, now prostrating themselves before phallic gods, they caw at one another in French and try to get what they can from passers by. The magic here is not so much in the story, but in the telling of it. The movement, perfectly identifiable as the mimicry of children, portrays a sort of Lord of the Flies world where three sisters play along with a fourth, largely silent, outcast who often portrays ‘mum’ against the mockery and feral machinations of the others. They are learning to beg and swindle, raging against their fate, and professing their faith and fealty to empty authority and mindless deities.
The design is lovely, smooth, and chocolaty, dimmed incandescent light (a rarity in a world increasingly moving towards LEDs) providing a warmth that pulls us into a dustbowl aesthetic – crickets softly chirping in the lengthy silences speak to us of a world removed from the bustle of the city; a world of full-service gas stations, where perspiration beads on the skin of icy bottles of Coca-Cola and girls sweat in the still air while they wait for the next mark to happen by. Less is more here. The stage is largely bare, and what there is, cluttered around the edges, is obscure, eclectic. Home for Broken Turns shows us the forgotten people, barely visible at the fringes of any metropolitan city, the wild, broken, and unknown youths fending for themselves in an uncaring world.
It Needs Horses may have a similar design aesthetic, but it’s content couldn’t be more different. Two vaudeville performers (Joan Clevillé and Solène Weinachter) vie for our attention in the centre of a circus ring. Confined within the performance space, they exhaust themselves, prancing around in moth-eaten costumes to the tinny voices of old-timey burlesque music blaring from an unseen gramophone, to the point of collapse.
A complex piece that deals with power and authority, ownership, sex, and the commodification of performance, It Needs Horses goes down like good port – warm and thick and cloying, but with a sinister edge. This is a piece that is characterised by unexpected danger that occurs suddenly and without warning. We are keenly aware of our own watching – our tacit approval of the (sometimes) monstrous acts makes us complicit, though we don’t share the prison the performers find themselves within. Uncomfortable parallels with the ‘bucket speeches’ of free festival shows are unavoidable as the performers parade raggedly, holding out a battered bowler for our tips. We can laugh at these pathetic attempts to get money out of us because we know none of us are going to give any. It Needs Horses casts a critical eye across our roles as spectators in an often brutal world where performers struggle against a sea of abuses and unfulfilled needs for our pleasure.
Both pieces are dark, moody, revelatory, rich, and complex. The dances are performed with consummate skill, and the images are as entertaining as they are disturbing. The execution of the design is deeply satisfying, and the choreography is evocative and communicates clearly. This double bill is definitely not one to miss if you have an interest in physical theatre.