Contemporary dance and physical theatre is at its most successful when it creates an image that is moving in both senses of the word. To do this well, arguably, the artist must take reality and warp it in such a way that the new image more accurately describes the emotion of a situation than a portrayal of realism would. The performers job is to inhabit the warped image fully whilst cultivating an experience of the reality. Feeling, rather than describing or impersonating. The choreographer and/or director’s job is to create an image, which evokes that feeling in the audience, without the potentially disengaging moment of pure and simple recognition.
This process is fully present and skilfully utilised in Light, Ladd and Emberton’s Caitlin. The power struggle between the couple (Caitlin Thomas and her slightly better known husband, Dylan- played fearlessly by Ladd and Emberton) is evoked and lived, rather than represented. As they hurl themselves ferociously around our tight circle chairs, often hurling the chairs as well, we feel every frustration and every emotion along with them- throughout their tumultuous marriage. Yet at no point do we ourselves feel unsafe- such is the skill and precision on display that we trust the performers implicitly even as chairs and bodies tumble past our feet, faces, shoulders… All unfolds unashamedly in bright ordinary light- nothing to hide. A lesson in imagery, emotion and risk. Interestingly, the image in the above photo came up in my piece 'Like Sand and Songs' and struck me then. I have yet to articulate what it meant to me in that work, but there are many possible interpretations.
Also worth a mention are the politics of the piece. Dylan’s words are his strength, his power and his fame, yet Emberton is wordless throughout. This is Caitlin’s story. We see reflected in their struggle many other women’s small and incremental bows to male dominance and the pain that they can cause for both members of the partnership. A reality especially true of the Dylan’s time, and especially bitter for these two alcoholic artists. Relatable, moving, important. The trio’s brilliant producer, Laura Drane launched ‘Caitlin Day’ in the lead up to the Edinburgh run; a day to celebrate women who’s achievements were overshadowed by their famous male partners. I would love to see 31st July remain #CaitlinDay in the future.