Put simply, Claire Cunningham has with Ménage à Trois created a unique way of movement using her crutches. Half dance, half silent storytelling, Cunningham constructs a world in which the two sticks of metal which support her have as much agency as two people. Aided by dance partner Christopher Owen, Cunningham - who is disabled, but the show is about so much more than her being a disabled artist - navigates desire as a woman already physically dependent on something, so is wary of emotional dependence.
Ménage à Trois is extremely technically impressive, especially the more acrobatic movements and lifts. However, it deals as much with story and thought as movement, so for a dance show the pace was actually quite ponderous, with a lot of emphasis on repeated gestures and lingering looks between Cunningham and Owen. The physical dance sequences were stunning; it would have been great to see more of them.
The piece heavily utilised special effects, including projections. While it created an interesting aesthetic, I felt this technological wizardry was unnecessary for telling the story: if not inherently distracting to the narrative, it had a tendency of relying on arbitrary smoke and mirrors. A video game sequence at the beginning, in which Cunningham uses her crutches as facsimile rifles to blow up projections, didn’t quite work for me. In general, I think Ménage à Trois would have been more powerful if it had stripped back on the technology and concentrated on Cunningham’s raw performance.
‘Sometimes I feel like a machine. I forget I was made to touch skin, to feel heat… I wasn’t made to click. But with you I click… Like a clique, a trio, a Ménage à Trois’. A thoughtful, gently-paced exploration of the three elements present in Cunningham’s relationship with her own body.