Springback

The Rest is Silence

performed by Hege Haagenrud

What to make of Hege Haagenrud’s The Rest is Silence? Heard in voice-overs delivered by co-author Kate Pendry, fascinating fragments and whole chunks of seemingly confessional, occasionally distorted text rub provocatively against strikingly odd, stringent movement from three women and a lone male clad in bulky, leg-baring costumes of fleshy pale pink wool. The set, meanwhile, is a three-quarter jail composed of fluorescent tube lighting. Whether true, fabricated or something in between, Pendry’s miserable memories and acute comments about body image, food addiction, bulimia, promiscuity and the like are bleak but sometimes bitterly funny. We listen intently while dancers wobble and fall, fidget and roll or hold and manipulate each other. If you’ve ever felt like you’re little more than ‘festering bundles of emotional pus’ this work was made for you. Its formal rigour and adult intelligence are what attracted – and may well haunt – me.
 


When you’re fat and therefore ugly, you’re not entitled to compassion. You’re a natural prey for hunters on the look out to punch and whip you. The woman telling us this is always the voice in her work with other performing artists, and never a body on stage – and neither is she now. Here she is an audio score supported by Hege Haagenrud's four dancers, dressed in stylish woollen costumes that nevertheless render their appearance chubbier. While the voice-over artist is denied a body, the dancers are denied any say. Although the quartet performs with smooth precision, especially in moments where they sculpturally converge in touchingly fluffy lumps, the audio overpowers the choreography. As the narrative unravels into a traumatic biography, the political aspect concerning the collective ownership of women’s bodies fades away. In impact, as well as in the eloquence of the actual bodies onstage, the maximum potential of this performance isn’t reached. 


Atmospheric dark music and fluorescent vertical lights surround the stage, where four onstage dancers in plank position struggle against the weight of their bodies. They are wearing bumpy pink woolen jumpers. The protagonist of this piece isn’t on stage, nor will she be. Her body is illiterate (so her voiceover tells us), has lost all rights to humaneness because its size isn’t ‘socially pleasing’. In her place stand the dancers, lean under the jumpers (the irony isn’t lost). They twitch to the rhythms of her words, or slide across the floor staring at the ceiling, or become a pile (for gravity is close to death). They represent bulimia by doubling up violently, loss of virginity by jerking fingers and hands, and helpless longing by rolling in a clinging heap across the floor. Hege Haagenrud’s endeavour to portray a personal story of pain and resilience, through the integration of dance and text, is intimately moving.


Four face-down dancers in comfy pink woollen costumes are already on stage when we arrive. They’re partially caged in an illuminated jail-like location, set to a buzzy sound-wave. It makes me feel nervy and cold. Hege Haagenrud theatricalises the movement in ‘The Rest is Silence’ to ‘tell story with a beginning, middle and an end’. A powerfully confession and broken narrative from British actor Kate Pendry dominates this compelling production. The performing bodies follow Pendry’s recollections of a distressing childhood; eating disorders, maternal neglect and unfulfilling relationships. Sharp hand-gestures and continuously severed encounters suggest the spoken soundtrack’s many layers of disassociation. Crushing the stereotypes of female beauty, shape and public acceptance are this work’s strong meat. No matter how juicy the text and ideas, the parallel of danced action distracted me and I’m left with a blurred memory of the choreography.
 


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Spring Forward
28 – 30 April 2017

Watch on demand: aerowaves.org/springforward

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