In many ways, the two works on this programme are opposites. Ours, Idan Sharabi’s male duet with Dor Mamalia, is a capricious rush of actions and gestures, executed with off-the-cuff virtuosity and set to a fade-in/fade-out montage of recorded voices and fragments of songs from Joni Mitchell’s album Blue. Disabled artist Claire Cunningham’s stark, measured solo Give Me a Reason to Live is immersed in plaintive washes of liturgical music, and painstakingly exposes the physical and emotional labour of moving on crutches. Yet the pieces have one effect in common: the nagging sense that their deeper meanings unfold more inside the performers’ heads than on the stage.
Joni’s dulcimer tones form fleeting oases among these doodling impressions
Sharabi and Mamalia are highly technical but always personable presences, sporting jeans and T-shirts. The voices speak of gods and anger, the two-sidedness of things, of home comforts and the dislocations between body and soul, while Sharabi and Mamalia run through a flick book of balletic steps, turn their hands from open palms to pointed guns, get out of and back into their trousers, and Joni’s dulcimer tones form fleeting oases among these doodling impressions. The dancing is as articulated as the rhythms of speech itself, but the composition is scattershot – though Sharabi’s vital, pitch-perfect final solo to Mitchell’s California, good enough to accompany great music, won me over in the end.
Cunningham begins cornered in a shaft of light, pitched forward on crutches; it seems as if she’s descending a well. Then, variously hanging upside down from the crutches or swinging them to find a purchase on the ground, she inches towards front and centre stage. There she stands and holds our gaze until she (and we) can stand no more, and she falls back on the crutches. Finally, she climbs on top of them, her classically trained voice taking flight where her body cannot. It’s a thoughtful, deeply felt work, but the imagery is stronger than the drama, and the pace stretches its material thin.