Stopgap Dance Company
I had become acquainted with Stopgap dance through an introduction to 'The Cost Of Living', the piece that famously aired on Channel 4 by DV8 Physical Theatre company in 2004. Apart from remembering a jubilant scene set to Cher's 'Believe', I was introduced to dancer and theatre performer David Toole who played one of the leads in the feature.
Fast forward to 2017 and David Toole is again in a lead role but this time as a Father. As audience members tumbled in slowly to the Lilian Baylis studio, the framework of the show was already building as Toole and his fictional daughter Sam (Hannah Sampson) took to the stage to start piecing the picture together. Furniture pieces were dotted around and a large structure that allowed cast members to move, dance, hide and reveal their bodies took centre stage.
The piece is about loss, and grief. I have experienced loss and grief through different forms in my own life, however it was clear that the kind of loss that takes place through the death of a mother and wife causes a deep grief that I had not yet experienced.
The journey that Toole goes on in expressing grief for his dead wife, laying about the house in a depressed state, telling short stories with intricate descriptions, then appearing to disconnect, especially to his daughter is familiar of others behaviour I have experienced and so in this sense I felt some authenticity.
Meanwhile Sam expresses outbursts of grief through her movement, with her friend Tom (played by the excellent Christian Brinklow) trying his utmost to help, but feeling like he can't do anything of value to make the situation better. Tom is a recurring character in the story of difficult times for many of us and it was this inclusion of his presence I most related to.
Chock's presence (Nadenh Poan) was likened to a 'Puck' character, helping to move the narrative forward through his humorous contributions. He also played an important role in representing the safe hand or 'angel-like' light in the shade of helping the mother to pass into the afterlife. This is something that one or two members of the audience took great comfort in.
Mother and Wife (Amy Butler/Meritxell Checa) did a superb job of creating a joint presence. I found the choreography of their 'montage of moments' to be one of my favourite features of the show. Simple progressive frozen states to show the journey of moving towards the coffee table, one polaroid-snap-like position after another, gave the nostalgic feeling of flicking through an old photo album.
As an ensemble in the second half, there was room for dance as a means to express once the story had been told. Character relationships unfolded and the untangling of feelings between Father and Daughter were revealed through pattern and movement.
What came across most prominently in this performance however, was the quality of relationships that the cast seemed to have built. Working as an inclusive company who enable able-bodied and disabled dancers to create something of meaning must bring some very special people together, and the bond and care they had for one another as a cast shone through greatly.
It was a pleasure to share in this performance and I know for sure that people who had experienced grief themselves found comfort in the telling of this tale.
You can find out more about Stopgap Dance here: http://stopgapdance.com
You can still see The Enormous Room at Pavilion Dance South West, Bournemouth on 23rd March @7.30pm