Body Language – Luke Holmes and the problems of connection. (Theatre Review)
All writers (and almost all creatives) need their influence. Satre’s criticism (and Lacan’s) of the ’empty gestures’ associated with appropriating a kind of persona in order to achieve is warranted, but one of the pains of creation turns out to be, the need for this appropriating on the journey to finding the elusive voice. What I mean by this, is you need to “act like Kafka” until you have enough sophistication and or skills to be clever enough to not act like Kafka. Finding what makes your piece of work different, special and close to what you want to say is a journey filled with inauthenticity. This problem is very close to the heart of all creatives, but writers of stage and screen have a special problem in that their work will be transformed by the creative voice of someone else. Luke Holmes is interested in the problems of influence at the start of a project and then release at the end, and sees them as similar to the complexities of intimate relationships.
Interestingly, when dealing with the problems of creative influence and problematic collaboration within the play’s narrative, Brave New Word productions, increases the relationship to this inquiry, by using a script informed by all the creatives involved and expanded into the transitional space evoked by the project. The very bones of Body Language have been forged by the problems it seeks to examine. The result is an enormous play, ambitious, broad and engulfing. I saw it performed at 107 Projects Redfern (Such a gorgeous space) on a stage that sat at the same level as the audience and this increased by experience of being a part of the play, or rather the enormity of the project. The first three weeks of rehearsals were a complete working, reworking and engagement with the script with the one aim of “making the show as good as it can be” and therefore, we are told, what we see is a collaboration between all the creative folk involved. By the time the work is in front of an audience, its sense of inclusion is somehow buried into the framework so that watching Body Language is not just a passive viewing experience.
Elise (Nicole Dimitriades) and Jake (Travis Kecek) found they worked well together when they each told a different version of the same story, he in a novel, she in a film. They met for intense sessions creating these works. However an attraction to each other soon infected the process, and Elise, in a relationship with someone else, cut the collaboration short. When the previous relationship turned sour, she moved in with Jake and continued to work, holding the new relationship at bay. Neither Jake nor Elise have worked as well since they cut work related ties, though the romantic longing for the other remains. What now floods the connection is a desire to beat each other to success, the unfulfilled desire turning to a kind of twisted frustration each wants to take out on the other. Surrounding this story are three other stories revolving around desire, power, lust and our longing to see ourselves mirrored in the face of the other punctuated by the narrative dance steps of a boy and girl simultaneously pushing each other away and pulling each other close. The play is funny and sad, beautiful and ugly just as are human relationships. At the basis of all lust, is a desire for power.
So Luke Holmes has taken the courageous step of allowing his work to be molded and shaped by the people around him something that (as the play suggests) brings up complicated feelings for him, as it does for all writers. Collaboration isn’t something writers are made for – writing is a solitary practice that involves a deep self exploration. However, theatre is collaborative and in honor of this idea, Holmes gives up his work to the theatre to let her have his way with him long before an audience member comes in to judge or question his words. I can only imagine collaboration was a little like Elise and Jake themselves, even though Elise and Jake arrive fully formed; They are the process of the play being formed as we watch the play being performed. Holmes connection to the relationship is apt, given the arrival of two fresh subjects, each with very definite ideas of how the other need to fit into their vision of the relationship. It’s when the other refuses to behave that real collaboration steps in, usually with the sacrifice of the relationship on the altar of ambition. Solving this problem is the making of some of the worlds greatest collaborative works.
As for Body Language the play, it is a lovely night of theatre. Director Sepy Baghaei creates a flowing world that interacts with the segueing dancers that spills the drama out into the audience so the feeling is wholly interactive. Lighting makes the distinction between sections of narrative as does music. The dancing couple from the glue and the framework for the multiple interlocking narratives, and in one particularly beautiful moment, are seen in the background, her eating an apple, him filming her eating an apple. In this way Baghaei cleverly retains the fullness of the complex subject matter so that we never get bogged down in each individual story. All the actors do a great job with an often light and playful script and the choreography is particularly lovely, the dancers making full use of the space. Overall Luke Holmes and the other members of Brave New Word have done a great job in creating a fully engaging, mindful night of theater, in the always problematic early stages of a companies launch.