The real material

Eleanor Brickhill at Speak to me, Sugar

The name itself, Speak to me, Sugar, has the sweet, flippant flavour of party food. But if you like Ros Crisp’s work you’d arrive at Omeo Studio prepared to dissolve your disbelief in her perspective, expecting more than some saccharine playing out of simple minded, sentimental ‘communication’. If your stance is more aloof, you might well see something fairly gooey—not noticing what I believe is the real material being investigated: something immediate and consciously physicalised, thought and feeling as it occurs, as vocabulary; no slick, pre-arranged, ‘perfectible’ stylisation, but a more coarsely grained demeanour, thankfully not yet pre-packaged.

The ensuing series of duets and simultaneous solos were created by the dancers via improvisation techniques developed under Ros Crisp’s direction. Physical expressiveness is focussed through a kind of moment to moment play, an emotional gambolling, jokes, trustful and teasing, soft voiceless whispering together, almost evoking an atmosphere of family—not those horrible dark tortuous relationships, but the inexplicable communion of siblings.

Their bodies tend to be softly side-lit, unsculptured, expression defined more by rich visceral and emotional inflection, than by hard lines. Waiting to enter, there’s a slight shift in focus, an internal activation, a moment where each dancer starts to listen—to themselves, to each other. Play begins, one with another, both serious and with enormous humour.

At one point, Diane Busuttil walks towards and into the audience, offering with eyes and gestures, a peculiar, alien, glutinous sort of feeling. Her look is not seductive, although it might appear that way at first, as her gaze is intent, and it’s hard not to respond. But looking closely, that intensity deepens to a cavernous, black-widowy, primitive, estranging dimension hard to imagine, both repulsive and magnetic. And it’s just as hard to look as not to look.

Through the duets, becoming slowly visible through what might seem nothing more than obsessive twitchiness, is evidence of multiple tracks of humanity, tenacious sensibility, timorous sentience. The dancers expose secret bodily voices, the murmurings and gleeful persuasive whimsy of imagination, need, sweet pleasure, and fierce hunger. Their bodies speak, full of histrionics, and with a quiet seriousness, one to another.

Speak to me, Sugar Studio performance by Ros Crisp, Julie Humphries, Diane Busuttil and Gabby Adamik. Omeo Dance Studio B2, Newtown, December 6-8

RealTime issue #17 Feb-March 1997 pg. 37

© Eleanor Brickhill; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 February 1997