In 1960s New York, Deborah Hay was part of the Judson Dance Theatre, a collective that redefined what was considered dance, how it was made, and who could do it. You can still see that experimental spirit in her 2004 quartet The Match, with its interest in individual experience, its wilful obscurity, its refusal to submit to commercial imperatives or entertainment values.
it sounds like a conversation between a Clanger and a whoopee cushion
The stage is bare. There’s no music. Instead the performers mutter and hum snatches of speech or song that never quite coalesce into words. Like these mumblings, the movements are sometimes fleetingly familiar: some look like blurred and mutated ballet steps, others like decomposed jazz dance, recognisable only by a sassy shoulder or a showbiz smile. There’s a quartet of long lunges and aeroplane arms. Wally Cardona jogs restlessly, as if he’s working up to something. Ros Warby grumps about like a crotchety bag lady, before removing her shoe and balancing on one defiant leg. Chrysa Parkinson squeaks and splutters in accompaniment to her flouncing and flopping limbs; it sounds like a conversation between a Clanger and a whoopee cushion.
The Match is intermittently witty, whimsical and perilously self-indulgent. But stick with the show, for the programme ends with two captivating solos (different each night) that are variations of material from The Match. On opening night, Hay herself performed the first solo, suddenly transforming all the obscurity of The Match into a strange logic. As Hay morphs seamlessly from cooing creature to benign teacher to mechanical toy, it’s as if her body is simply filtering the weird wide world around her. It’s fascinating, then, to see Mark Lorimer use the same material to such different effect. He’s more overtly theatrical, an impish entertainer who seems constantly perplexed by his own behaviour.
Although The Match leans on the commitment and experience of its excellent cast to work at all, these solo adaptations really let the performers come into their own.