Review: Clod Ensemble – Under Glass @ WMC

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Clod Ensemble – Under Glass @ WMC

Western Studio, Wales Millennium Centre

Wednesday 22nd November 2017

Upon the stage door for the WMC’s Western Studio has been adorned the large print poster for Under Glass. I remained special if the large jar featured were, in fact, real or photoshopped. I was half right.

Almost ten years on from its premier, Under Glass has been an ever-morphing work, never keen to keep it as standard. New parts are added to create new levels of perspective in the piece. This is a beard scratching show which tackles the variation in the study of a person through the mediums of both art and science. Each has its own trappings and audiences, yet the belief that once you have observed a specimen it is somehow altered is predominate throughout the show.

After an intense grilling from the front of house crew, we were finally able to venture in woods to make our own observations. I do wish the front of house would have informed us to mind the cushions on the floor, to prevent trips in the near darkness that befell us in the space (ushers held dim flashlights). Our attention was shared between seven tableaux mostly consisting of contained dancers in very tight spaces. Some were in giant test tubes, another in a jar, with one restricted to a patch of grass and very limited height. It was all very claustrophobic indeed.

These menagerie of specimens each express a varying emotion or feeling. Two bodies in a circular dish are entitled Twins (featuring Hayley Carmichael and Riccardo T.). The female looks deeply concerned for the man sharing the space with her. Is she in love? Are these twins in the womb? Would they ever escape? Wallflower sees Maëva Berthelot confined to a small wall space, looking concerned and worried about her plight. She kicks, flings and jumps to express herself, though we could a few steps reach out of her confines. Was she almost out? Within the Jam Jar is Sachi Kimura, childlike in her perspective of her confines, frequently frantic and heating to escape.

Dance is essentially all movement now (by today’s standard). So how can dancers have the freedom to move in these confined cages? Each uses their limited space with great economy and artistry. It’s easy to feel like a professor watching his items coming to life and then dying again and again.

Some parts work better than others, Sam Coren has great psychical comedy moment in his Office. He is very bored, stuck in his own cage, tries to get back something he drops and the mania ensues. His box is smaller than his height, so he leans over and at other times is at his small desk. Perhaps the workplace being an actual repressed space is a bit obvious, but it does still have its moments. Next to him, the Spectator, played by Elisabeth Schilling has half dance moves in her elegant evening dress. Who is she then? Who is watching who?

The real highlight of the night was Sarah Cameron and the poem Village by Alice Oswald. I’m the tightest tube of all, Cameron created much intrigue as we listen in on her phone conversations. Her radio sharp delivery and cutting remarks, we’re brought alive through the sensational verse by Oswald. It’s not clear what exactly is going on, but we listen attentively anyway. Has someone been murdered? Why is it happening once more? Simply brilliant, vivid writing.

The let down for the night was the imposed seating structure or lack of. Most craved seats and this could have been easily obtainable if the End of the World Cabaret was placed nearer the others. We still could have had our little visitation to the Twins, but I feel this would have aided in the neck twisting, tennis match we were up against at times.

That aside, it held up as a vibrant work. We al left the space in a daze, the harsh lights hitting our eyes, as we took in just what we saw. With more interesting projects down the pipeline from Clod, it’s exciting to think what they will think up next in the vain of science meeting theatre.

Charged with tension, wonderfully constructed.

Rating: ****

Under Glass continues at the WMC till 25th November 2017.


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