Two women are on stage, their mouths are taped shut with broad, black gaffer tape. They are, literally, silenced. This is the opening, and very effective, metaphor for the kind of depressive mental illness they are exploring in Tape, a multimedia show devised by the performers Michelle Barrington and Eleanore Frances.
This piece has a sense of purpose and unity
In a space on the floor defined by fairy lights, these silenced women dance together in symbiosis, sometimes soft and subtle, sometimes brash and staccato. In the background, as they break out of their defined space and onto the rest of the stage, a film starts playing. It is the story of a young man descending into depressive illness. We hear his thoughts; that he is starting not to recognise the person he seems to be becoming; that the panic he feels on the bus is overwhelming. The dancers have words stuck to them: empty, alone, grief, paralysed, love. Words they cannot speak.
At the back of the stage is a cassette player, and tapes are played; testimony of this young man’s journey into darkness. It is one man’s story, but a story that is gleaned from many stories and could apply to anyone.
With an original score by Lewis Olley that is finely tuned to the performances – sometimes subdued, sometimes anguished, sometimes hypnotic – this piece has a sense of purpose and unity. What does it take to break the silence? To go from 'Somehow, I’m not strong enough to ask for help,' to 'Men won’t admit it, but I will.'
I loved the multimedia aspect of this piece. Each component, dance, film, spoken work, sound, contributed to the whole. On one level, I was completely drawn in to the young man’s despair and (perhaps?) hope. On another, I wasn’t quite sure that the piece was completely coherent. While at times the different elements worked together beautifully, at others the piece became abstract and discordant. It wasn't clear whether the change in feel was deliberate rather than rough around the edges. But these performers are young and talented and will only get better. They, and their company Blown Fuse are well worth a look.