writer, Matt Korfage, has already written a very discerning analysis
on this blog of the interpretive dance in last night's TBA Festival
performance of Meg Stuart and Philipp Gehmacher's Maybe Forever
performance. So I took a look at what you can glean from the show if precise expressive movements are not your first language.
Having seen the drab and desolate looking picture attached to Maybe Forever
in the TBA guide I headed along to the Newmark Theatre armed to the hilt with synonyms for "depression." Its aim, after all, was to explore our “struggle with each other, and with the fact that things are not forever.”
Staring at the bleak, darkened stage and the enigmatic gesticulations of our two principals, I didn't mind it being moody, so long as something was understandable by the end. And on reflection, the performance did make some sense. You can see Meg Stuart and Philipp Gehmacher being drawn together and torn apart; you see that somehow they cannot work, and you understand the ensuing pain. But my chief feeling was that the audience was never given the chance to care a great deal about the relationship
. It wasn't built up or established, to the extent that it was hard to feel any sense of the loss that was so central to this piece. A glimpse of a running joke about Gehmacher's long arms isn't really enough.
The monologues were a welcome insight, and naturally I would have liked more of them (I think there were four?). To me these distinguished our characters as real people, and not just animals commanded by urges and movement. But hey, that's dance.
Having never studied release technique and contact improvisation in New York, as Stuart has, I found that following a narrative through arm movements became a little repetitive – surely there's only so much it can say? It's evidently a terrific upper body workout though; she had arms to rival Madonna. Looking to other effects to fill in the blanks, the lighting was great. Which sounds like faint praise, but really--it would shift indiscernibly until suddenly you could see a wall that wasn't there before, or notice that the glowing green hues of a big dandelion screen had changed through autumnal browns to a somber monotone. The use of costume helped with transformations too, turning Gehmacher from a smart, tailored, man-in-control, into someone much more uncomfortable and insecure.
And the music was most welcome; Niko Hafkensheid's gentle electric guitar was reminiscent of the Radiohead song
used to great effect in Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet
. His music created a lingering, reflective atmosphere, drawing us in to the ideas and feelings on show more than anything else.
Conversely to Matt Korfage's experience, my section of the audience seemed to enjoy the performance a tad more than I did. At least they laughed at bits that I'd granted a wry smile. Maybe Forever is clearly a creation which strikes a different chord with everyone, which seems to be what TBA is all about.
Photo of Meg Stuart in Maybe Forever by Chris Van der Burght courtesy of PICA.