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Review: What Songs May Do

ARTWORK What Songs May Do 2023_resized

By: Rosie Sharman-Ward, TRP Reviewer


This show is spellbinding. It follows a relationship from ardent fiery beginnings through the happy warmth of loving, painful possible rekindling and the cold chill of heartache. Even now we are not sure how or if it ends, maybe the dancers aren’t either? The immaculate storytelling is enhanced by a haunting soundtrack of songs of love and loss by Nina Simone – and the perfect use of silence.

From the raw physical intensity of the beginning of the piece the performers never tear their eyes away from each other. They are the centre of the world they create, personal, private, intimate. Nevertheless, we are carried along with them, watching every subtle change as their relationship shifts and develops, willing them to be happy.

There comes a particularly joyful period, new love, living together where the mundane everyday tasks are infused with a fizz of happiness, gentle exploration of the other person. We can all recall that intoxicating feeling before reality kicks back in…

The performance is passionate and  triumphant. The immense athleticism of the two dancers is matched by their ability to display emotions with exquisite succinct expression, the choreography wastes no movements, each has meaning. Drawn into to the story, the audience hold their breath, forgetting where they are, the silences between tracks stretch out and during the longest I swear I hear our hearts breaking.

It is a show uniquely suited to the Drum. Its small dark space encircles us all. The lighting is simple but completely mesmerising, dim, mostly side lit allowing the performers to almost disappear at times. We are in their room, their private space and though they seem unaware of our presence, it sometimes feels as if we intrude.

Post show, Artistic Director and Choreographer, Mathieu Geffre̒ spoke of being able to create this dance after a career during which he portrayed many loving relationships dancing with people who identified as female. To be able to make a love story that is not about being gay but about people being themselves is a relief. To feel that their love is represented without needing to be translated is inspirational. He says, whilst he feels Theatre Royal Plymouth is a safe place, in other places audience members have walked out. I find this desperately sad and those who left missed out on a show of compelling beauty. I’m certain the other members of the awestruck audience would agree.

For Rendezvous Theatre:

Performers – Oliver Chapman and Paolo Pisarra

Dramaturg – Andrew Gardiner

Lighting Design & Technical Manager – Rachel Shipp

Touring Technician & Relighter – Amelia Hawkes


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