I’ve written a short text for Humus 3, a book on the 30 years of the Kaaitheater, about the extraordinary duets by Jonathan Burrows and Matteo Fargion – Both Sitting Duet, Quiet Dance, and Speaking Dance. The complete text, titled Brecht might have liked it, is below (and continues after ‘read more’). An edited version of it will be in the book, which comes out in September.
Kind of similar-looking but for sure not identical, semi-bald blokes in identical or nearly identical clothes are sat on chairs right next to each other and doing things. Mainly it’s movement broken by stillness – a lot of hand and arm action, some of it recognisable as versions of everyday gestures, the rest of it more abstract or more dance-like. There also seems to be some interest in sound; the noise that comes when the slapping palm of a hand makes contact with a knee, or the sudden exhalation of breath when they both slump forward in a posture of exaggerated rest.
In the next piece they lose the chairs and move around instead, sometimes together, more often alone. They are pacing paths back and forth, walking circles repeatedly. With these paths and circles they make sounds; a long ‘aghhhhh’ or ‘aaaahhhhh’ for instance, which although done without noticeable emotion still invokes a notion of falling, dread or non-specific fear. Sometimes, moving down there on the black floor of the stage, they look like claymation – simple-figure-humans with a comically (or tragically) small vocabulary of action and sound. They are creatures living within a limit, two men caught in some skeletal scenario, an encounter whose pieces have been disordered, dislodged from continuity and causality.
In the final of the works they go back to the chairs and make yet more sounds – speak words and sing even. The words run simultaneously – going with and through each other, side by side, over and under, point and counterpoint. The words are mostly describing movement; movement that could possibly be dance or could possibly be something else. Run. Run. Run. Stop. Run. Run. Run. Stop is all I can immediately remember. It’s fast, vivid exhilarating.
All of it messes with your sense of what’s simple and what’s complicated. Mostly it starts at a place you’d call simple, very simple, but then they pattern it zealously; repeating, overlaying, looping the sequences, moving in and out of phase with each other and altering the time so that what maybe began as something you could teach to eight year olds, ends up more like Bach. A lot of maths, a lot of counting. Strangely virtuoso, for all its insistent aura of banality.