Dirty Work, 33 Fainting Spells

Review in Issue 15-1 | Spring 2003

The landscape is vaguely reminiscent of the morning after a school disco (with school-issue record players, mic stands, tatty projection screens, half-eaten doughnuts and a litter of Tab cans). A trio of women dressed to party, or in plaid raincoats, or in ballet dresses (often over the frocks) and wigs. A series of incidents include a twisted ballet dance, an obsessively recreated film scene of cigarette-smoking, foot-washing and moody looks, a bike ride through rain-swept streets, a vaguely sinister mock nurse telling us that ‘it’s about that time now’, a hold-up in a doughnut shop, a runaway clothes rail – all cut through with blackout before they quite coalesce into anything as coherent as a scene. The publicity tells us that the work is inspired by sources that include Chekhov, Ingmar Bergman and John Osborne, but many of these remain allusions rather than quotations, adding to the teasing sense that any moment we might grasp something more substantial from these moments.

The company’s debt to Meyerhold (the name comes from a 1935 production, named after the number of times characters faint or allude to fainting in the Chekhov stories which he adapted) is apparent in their physical score, performed to a soundtrack that includes Steely Dan alongside Bartok, The Zombies and Les Plus Beaux Poemes de la Langue Française – all played ‘live’ off vinyl. In the hands of anyone less talented, this Forced Entertainment-on-a-sugar-rush might have been imitating and pretentious. But Dayna Hanson and Gaelen Hanson (no relation) and Peggy Piacenza buoy us through these shifting layers with a precise, delicate, often-funny choreography, woven through with seemingly casual gesture (nail-biting, ear-cleaning, huffs). Sophisticated, mesmerising and inspiring.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Jan 2003

This article in the magazine

Issue 15-1
p. 25