This dance begins with an announcement: “No more dancing.” The speaker (Patrycja Kujawska), prompted by gestures from her seated neighbour (Aurora Lubos), continues: “No more classical music. No more…” Lubos flicks through her notes and starts gesticulating more frantically – “…partner work. No more, uh, high kicks. No more… lists?” The game of charades builds to a nihilist manifesto, until the rule book is finally shredded and Kujawska asks: “So, what now?”
The rest of Charlotte Vincent’s If We Go On plays out as a series of attempts to answer that question. The stage, dimly lit by hanging bulbs, is demarcated by a metal frame, in which the seven performers, using a mix of movement, music and words, ponder what they are doing and why. The text (by Wendy Houstoun, a seasoned performer herself) exposes the psychology – and sometimes psychobabble – of performance itself. Janusz Orlik keeps giving up on his steppy dance sequence because his performance isn’t “real”; his cellist accompanist Alex Catona rolls his eyes wearily. Precious myths – that a great performance enriches our lives, for example – are pushed to their absurd conclusions, and Scott Smith ruminates lugubriously on the placing and purpose of pauses.
The characters appear both adrift and exceedingly glum; unless you’re a performer yourself, it is sometimes hard to care. But at its best, If We Go On reaches beyond the stage towards intimations about life. A chorus-line song uncovers universal anxieties (or truths): ultimately we are all small-timers, nothing special. In one chaotic scene the cast lurch among swinging bulbs like moths buffeting about a room; the lights go out until just one dancer (Carly Best) is left blindly repeating her agitated actions. “Why do you keep going?” asks another, holding out his microphone. The rasp of her breath is all the answer we get.