fleur darkin company
Warwick Arts Centre, Studio
16th May 2012
With ten years of ballet, a pair of pointe shoes and fourteen years of dancing in general behind me, here comes my first dance review…
Fleur Darkin’s striking portrayal of the wonderment of William Blake’s poetry and a speculation on his childhood is full of strong imagery and raw choreography, set to an incredible live score. Although not completely cohesive, the piece hints at an essence of Blake’s work through a mixture of dance and dance theatre.
Little Lamb who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee
Gave thee life & bid thee feed.
By the stream & o’er the mead…
~ “The Lamb”, William Blake
Using a plethora of wooden furniture items that resemble both nursery toys and prison bars, the company manipulate the props throughout the piece to spell out helpful hints on the back fence of the stage; “Lamb”, “Golden”, “Spring”. We begin with “Lamb”, oddly enough a poem from Blake’s “Songs of Innocence” but relevant for the birth of the ensemble, who scream onto the stage through the legs of Darkin herself. There is an extremely realistic impersonation of a baby, Blake himself is born and is spoken for by his parents. Blake can see the angels in the trees but no one believes him, his parents pray for his salvation whilst they close him off.
Ensemble sections where the entire company were onstage felt somewhat rushed – there was a sense that sometimes the chaos was unplanned, perhaps the company were adjusting to the space – and there were several occasions when dancers bumped into tables/curtains/pieces of wood on the floor at inopportune moments. There was a real Blakean energy to Paul Bradley’s live score and the dancers hurled themselves around the stage in response.
The most effective sections of choreography were the two-handers, the final section particularly powerful where Blake (Ezekiel Oliveira) dances with, discovers, a girl, a soulmate – an infinity, perhaps, who spins gracefully on his arm as the final lights go down.
Perhaps a downfall in the piece lies in its use of niche information; drawing on the early biography of Blake that was only known to me through academic study: many of the references to his childhood experiences may have been lost in amongst some exceptionally abstract sequences that dwelt upon enclosure, birth and disbelief. Ultimately, the “experience” was striking, but neither left you gasping in sheer amazement nor completely sure of the narrative thrust.