May Be at Sadler’s Wells

Julia Pascal



I walk into a Paris bookshop and ask if they can offer me play texts by contemporary French authors.  The assistant directs me to a shelf of plays by Samuel Beckett.  To the French, Samuel Beckett is one of theirs.  He wrote in French.  He lived most of his life in France.  But was he Irish?   Anglo-Irish?   French?   The answer is clear from Maruy Maguin’s extraordinary dance work that he is undefined by national boundaries.  Beckett’s poetry and dramas are about the absurdity of the Human Condition.  But how can such complex ideas s be expressed through dance?

May B (say it and you will get it) is no conventional dance work.  It is a shuffling, staggering, off-centre collection of movements forming constantly -moving pictures to express the absurdity of Beckett’s theatre.  Marin uses an ensemble to provoke us.  Are they in a ‘mad house’?  Have we walked into Marat Sade?  Is this a comment on the pettiness of human ambition as it staggers from cradle to grave?  Faces are whited out.  The individual is a cackling, fucking, laughing, sometimes brutalizing, sometimes compassionate hotch- potch of utter nonsense.

The sparseness of Beckett’s writing is echoed in the choreography.  Marin’s collaborators have captured the austerity of Marin’s vision and the staging is wonderful Albin Chavignon’s lighting is a flat wash of orange.  Music  by Franz Schubert, Gilles de Binche, Gavin Bryars is a poignant disturbance.  I was reminded of Taduesz Kantor’s aesthetic and at times of Hogarth’s political satires.

The work ends in what looks like images from deportation as the group line up with suitcases before being dropped into a pit.  Multiple meanings can be extracted from the wealth of visuals that Main, and her hugely talented team of ten dancers, create.  This is a leading work which will remain tattooed on the brain long after the performance ends.

Julia Pascal© 2024.