Jacob Elliott Roberts’ Green Mother is based on a short story he wrote, which is telling – not because of any discernible narrative, but because the performance always seems to have its sights on something else, beyond the stage, beyond even its own scope. Natasha Arcoleo and Evie Oldham are almost archetypal women in green dresses, framing their faces with elegant placements of arms. Moody instrumentals give way to a high-pitched lament as the women separate, Arcoleo juddering with anxiety. Oldham remaining stock still. Finally they interlock into a kind of corporeal rebus of four arms and two faces that gaze, as ever, into the beyond. It’s an intriguing but ungraspable work, its meanings and motivations seeming to lie elsewhere.
Plate 01 dispenses with such intangibles: it’s all about appearance. Against a back projection of wriggly microbes, the stage is set with three apparently inanimate structures that turn out to be outlandish costumes concealing three dancers. One is a seaweedy tangle, set a-shiver by its inner dancer. Another is a kind of cage that splits apart, birthing two beings: a twisty worm-thing with ribbony protrusions, and a garish, shimmering creature with unruly tentacles. The effect is choreographically insubstantial but visually fascinating.
The theme of Luke Birch’s solo Likeness – the relation between movement and words – is murky with ambiguities, but composition and performance are crystal clear. A voiceover reels out phrases – like water, like a bull in a china shop, like it’s 1999 – while Birch, in a stepwise pattern around the stage perimeter, “likens” his gestures to the text, whether in imitation of meaning or rhythm. Plaintive piano replaces voice, and Birch builds a series of spiralling falls, folds and slips, on a strict diagonal. Words return, now likening meanings to those movements. He bundles himself up and rolls like a stone, to Bob Dylan’s ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ – a literalism compromised by the logo on his t-shirt: the famous tongue and lips logo of the Rolling Stones. Likeness is one of those works you could watch all over again, to see how it’s been made as much to savour its effects.