Chloé Déchery, Useful Knowledge to Know

Review in Issue 21-4 | Winter 2009

There will be classical music, sung in Italian, which no-one will understand; there will be white flowers, lilies perhaps; and when she caresses this chair, we will know that the performance will end…

Chloé is French, a lecturer, not a dancer. This mantra is repeated throughout her lecture-performance, Useful Knowledge to Know, an exploration of the tripwires of communication. Using spoken language (English and French), movement, film, recorded sound, and a kind of theatre-of-objects – in which the placing of the vase of lilies on the table, or the moving of a chair, creates a constantly evolving still life – Déchery and her offstage collaborator, the documentary film-maker Chris Eley, have made a very pleasing and thought-provoking piece of contemporary theatre.

At the heart of the piece is an investigation into how we communicate: how we ‘read’ what we hear and see; how everyone speaks and uses different languages; and how this continuous negotiation of understanding and misunderstanding is multiplied when we come from different cultures, with different ‘mother tongues’. What fascinates Déchery most are the near-misses, when two words or actions are so similar that we think we understand, but have miscommunicated. Take the word ‘lecture’ for a start: in English, giving words in a talk; in French, receiving words, on the page – reading.

In many ways this piece is typical of much work doing the live art circuit at the moment – solo performer (female) using the self as the source, mixing and matching a toolbox of performance tricks (projection, choreography, performative objects etc). What distinguishes this piece is the confidence and skill of this theatre-trained performer – in contrast to many people presenting this sort of work, Déchery has what it takes to carry the audience through the journey, and to engage them in her story.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Sep 2009

This article in the magazine

Issue 21-4
p. 31