views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

I Dreamt of a Flower
Etcetera Theatre
27th August 2015


Publicity image for I Dreamt of a Flower

Photography provided by In Between Butoh

When the artists themselves complain about their performance afterwards, you can safely say that there was something lacking. In Between Butoh's I Dreamt of a Flower has warning signs from the outset. A man (Ezio Tangini) wearing only a curtain, floppy hat and thong very slowly steps out, whilst a scantily-clad lady (Flavia Ghisalberti) armed with sellotape appears to drunkenly gaze on. There then follows a strange, if somewhat boring, mixture of staggering, meandering and contortions from the pair. Having missed their last visit to the Camden Fringe four years ago, we were excited to finally see Swiss performers Tangini and Ghisalberti's take on Japanese Butoh interpretive dance. However, something was definitely lost in translation.

At first we assumed there would be some play to come with the lighting, or that it would add some deep significance, but honestly, the naked red lamp and white LED seem only to be a part of the production to avoid the performers moving in total darkness. We also expected something clever from the music coming from the tiny FM radio clutched throughout by Ghisalberti, however it transpired it wasn't as complex a prop as we thought. When Sound of Silence was blasted out, that was purely because Jo Wiley happened to pick that track on her Radio 2 show at that particular moment, rather than it being a deliberate choice on the part of the company. Even that could be poignant in its randomness, but Wiley herself chatting between tracks and eventually the hourly news report really made it seem unprepared and lacking context.

There are what appear to be attempts at setting a tone: a rolling ball, all on its own; the sellotape used to wind around Ghisalberti's arms and legs; and the chaotic stumbling on the clumsy heels. This all felt like it could have been trying to convey some message, but there was far too little to link it up. If we're kind, Ghisalberti did at times seem to evoke the tragic character of Dorothea from Georges Bataille's Blue of Noon, but you wouldn't be able to guess that without knowing the novella apparently influenced this work. As for Tangini, we couldn't place him as Henri Troppman, the only protagonist he could have been.

Despite the obvious flaws, it's clear that there is a studied dance style behind the piece, and the performers do know how to move. Tangini especially, during the sequences spent slowly reaching, clutching and rocking demonstrates that he must have great muscle tone in order to hold such uncomfortable positions for so long. There does remain the question as to what all that movement was for, and whether it was worth it.

As with many devised pieces, I Dreamt of a Flower lacks a director's cohesive influence in structuring whatever message they were attempting to give to the audience. The venue was also poorly suited to the piece, however the company could have used this as an opportunity to expand their performance making use of the mirrors. On the fringe circuit, a quirky space has to be seen as an opportunity rather than a problem. If you want a black box and don't book one, you can only adapt or die.

Generally, there was a sense of "flailing around" trying to find something to give meaning. Whilst we couldn't ascertain the company's intention, perhaps the true meaning is that aren't we all, just flailing around, trying to make sense of everything? We certainly felt like we were flailing.

I Dreamt of a Flower opened on 27th August and runs until 29th August 2015 at the Etcetera Theatre, as part of the Camden Fringe.

Nearest tube station: Kentish Town (Northern)

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