Wednesday, November 21, 2018

3 Stories (Three’s Theatre Company in The MAC until Thursday 22 November)

Stories. Dance. Choices. Headphones. As usual Three’s Theatre Company ticked all those boxes with their latest work, accurately titled 3 Stories.

Three’s Theatre Company has a history of telling stories in parallel, allowing the audience to select which one to listen to – sometimes permitting them to flick between voices – and leaving the theatre with the feeling that they haven’t heard the entire show, that some other people heard other voices or words that they missed out on.

Having devised a piece of physical theatre – that’s dance to you and me – in, you guessed it, three days, three writers were asked to write stories to accompany the work.

Before entering the theatre, audience members randomly selected one of three origami designs. I picked out a fish which meant I sat on the blue side of the triangular dance floor, wearing blue headphones and staring across the theatre at a sea of red ears to my left and green to my right.

Music was replaced with Mary Jordan’s story, As Good as a Fish, in my ears. Other audience members listened to Colm G Doran’s Connection or Ciaran Haggarty’s Seagull. We shared the same dance visuals, but I’ve no idea what they heard.

Anna Leckey, Aimee Montgomery and Michael Bingham demonstrated the subtlety of their movements and the immense control they could exercise in collaboration with each other. Leaning backwards, arching a back until extended finger tips reached the floor. A one-handed cartwheel. Bodies folded around each other, clinging onto each other, pulling against each other, watching and waiting for each other.

Jordan’s piece was beautifully written, and read out with a reassuring and measured tone. It felt like a love letter from a mother to her eldest daughter, describing a childhood trip to the beach, the arrival of siblings, school days, the stress of exams and more serious mental health difficulties among family and friends, before the story swam to shore and basked on the beach under warm sunshine of a stable family at peace with themselves and each other.

But I could be wrong.

While there were moments when the narrative was clearly supported by the dance – learning to walk again was beautifully portrayed – often the conceptual disconnect between word and movement became a distraction. Oh look, the three dancers have just formed a human centipede ... and they’ve now transformed into a centaur ... that’s clever ... And my brain had switched away from the aural story to the dance and I was now lost, waiting for my ear to give me a leg back up onto the story. For me, 3 Stories is the least coherent of Three’s Theatre Company’s works to date. A novel way of devising a work or three, but one that didn’t sufficiently bind the different mediums together.

My young companion put on headphones that had the volume turned all the way down. In a teenage move that was either feckless or fearless, when they couldn’t easily find the volume wheel, they simply chose not to ask for help and sat for 50 minutes in perfect silence and watched the dance, generating a fourth story, unique to their imagination, undistracted by other people’s words.

The final two performances of 3 Stories are at 6.45pm and 8.45pm on Thursday 22 November.

Photo credit: The Hype Factory

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