Monday, 26 October 2009

Rhapsody Fantaisie, World Premier, Morphoses, Sadler's Wells Friday 23/10

When six couples come on stage at the start of Christopher Wheeldon's Rhapsody Fantasisie, it is an arresting an image as anything Wheeldon has choreographed before. The women were carried horizontally from the wings like human crosses over the stage. In vermilion jersey dresses and blunt-edged harem pants on the men, Mary Louise Geiger's cold lighting seemed to turn the dancer’s skin tones to a deathly pallor against the bright reds of their costumes (designed by Calvin Klein's Francisco Costa). If these were sentinels of the underworld, or ghosts perhaps, Wheeldon's characteristically individual choreography gave them the death-mocking vivacity of pulsing blood.

It is Wheeldon's arrangement of his dancers in intricate tableaux mixing refined with blunt and even perverse shapes that keeps us engaged. Similarly his smaller couplings are full of the unexpected. When Wendy Whelan and Andrew Crawford enter for their pas de deux, Whelan's head is cupped in Crawford's hand and is gently pushed like a ball, where it bounces back up and down, the figure is repeated back with Crawford’s head. This interplay, both odd and delightful, is mirrored by Rubinal Pronk’s entrance where is partner’s head seems to bounce on his puffed up chest a movement he mirrors on hers. These moments are full of play and seem to say that, no matter how serious or high art the enterprise, just below the surface is a delight in movement where bodies can bounce off one another like helium-filled balloons. Pronk, by the way, is a man to watch, a Dutch dancer of feral grace whose body is closer to liquid mercury than flesh and bone.

Fancisco Costa's costumes and artist Hugo Dalton’s projected sketches of dancer’s faces, bodies and hands are collaborations which Morphoses celebrates, harking back to the great Ballet Russes and Diaghilev’s explosive melding of avant garde musical and artistic talent. It’s impossible to imagine such combinations today causing the controversies of hundred years ago. In fact, there is something so slick and seductive about Wheeldon’s work and his creative partners, that he’s thus far producing a chic aesthetic that satisfies the super-refined tastes of the New York and London balletomanes. As a dance populariser, a role which he'd like to claim, we'll just have to wait. But as one of the aforementioned balletomanes, he needn't hurry.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Mother's milk. Mrs Klein, Almeida Theatre

When Melanie Klein (Clare Higgins) accuses her daughter, Melitta (Zoe Waites), of being a ‘bad clinician’, the audience gasped during last night’s opening of Nicolas Wright’s ‘Mrs Klein’ at the Almeida theatre. Perhaps their horror was imagining themselves chastised by the very woman whose theories on infant development form the bedrock of their own working practice? The Almeida is a stone's throw from the consulting rooms of Hampstead, after all. Indeed the audience, in this small, claustrophobic theatre space became a Greek chorus to the emotional dance of death played out on the stage. Loud coughing accompanied Klein’s violent attack on her daughter, as she threw wine in Melitta’s face and stuffed a torn letter in her mouth: a gross parody of maternal feeding. It seemed as if Melanie Klein was choking the rest of us too.

This is the power of Wright’s play in this stellar production directed by Thea Sharrock - an exploration of the complex dynamics between Klein, her daughter and Paula, a Jewish refugee German analyst seeking both work and to become Klein’s patient: a lost child in search of her mother. She also acts as audience, referee and protagonist in the primitive battles between mother and daughter whose persecutory routines become murderous against the backdrop of Hans’ recent death, Klein’s son.

Clare Higgins’ Klein, whose bad-breast antics would screw the resolve of any infant to shove shit in her face, is pitch perfect. Our ambivalence shifts uneasily between sympathy for this, a bereaved woman, and repulsion that Klein abused both her own children by forcing them into analysis with her (the name Melitta, ‘little Melanie’ flags up Klein’s narcissism like a storm warning). And yet, this very abuse of her role as mother allowed Klein to theorise early attachment giving us a model of human development that enriches psychodynamic and analytic practice today.

Our ability to manage these discords at once is the challenge Klein’s work sets out for us. Can we truly hold both good and bad in the same object? Can we accept Klein's theories while despising her methodology? Our strangulated gasps during the performance, followed by wild applause at the play’s end mysteriously symbolised Klein’s own theories of integration. And we left the theatre enriched.

Mrs Klein runs until December 5th at the Almeida theatre, N1

Monday, 12 October 2009

The Bigger Story

In the Telegraph Matt Lucas and Kevin McGee were once 'married'; while in the Mirror they were married without the inverted commas. In other newspapers and websites they were 'ex-partners' - which could have just meant they were no longer in business together.

When Boyzone's Stephen Gately died on Saturday after a history of depression, suicidal thoughts and possible addiction to anti-depressants, we are left wondering how his story may conclude after tomorrow's post mortem. An accidental overdose seems likely.

Gately was found by his, 'partner' (in the Telegraph) but who the Mail Online calls 'husband', for he and Andrew Cowles had a civil union in 2006. This may or may not mean they were 'married' according to where you read this story. Two things are certain, Gately's Catholic parents didn't attend his wedding/civil union or accept his sexuality.

There's surely a link between this slippery use of language and the mental health aspects of these two tragic stories. Research among young gays in the States suggests those rejected by their families are nine times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers. In the UK which has offered civil unions for gays, but not in the same language as straight marriage exposes the fault lines of our inability to accept full equivalence to gay relationships. Gays in civil unions do not have the same status and approval as men and women who marry. How odd does the phrase, 'heterosexuals who 'marry'' seem when we add those suspicious, wary, disapproving inverted commas?

Our newspapers' awkward inability to name exactly who is who and what is what shows us how far we still need to go before gays and straights enjoy the same privileges. And until we do, the statistically greater chance of addiction and even suicide will carry on blighting the lives of gay people.