JUNK ENSEMBLE
IRISH THEATRE MAGAZINE 19 May 2010

Five Ways to Drown

It starts with incongruity. Why is the large cushioned sofa on the lawn? Already intrigued, we peer expectantly at the half-lit figures behind the glass screens of Aedin Cosgrove's inventive design in the opening sequence of Junk Ensemble's terrific show, which jump-started Dublin Dance Festival 2010.

In Five Ways to Drown choreographers Jessica and Megan Kennedy have set us up, as usual. Their penchant for site-specific work has led to a reversing of the usual position of audience and stage in Project Arts Centre, creating a sense of lives off balance. We can assume that nothing is at it seems.

This energy-filled dance work, with an imaginative mix of quirky humour and melancholy, fulfills its intention of measuring the routine against the unexpected.

The dysfunctional scenario is developed in the continuation of incongruous images and moves which propel an underlying fragmented narrative: an abandoned slipper, a woman in scarlet evening dress attached to a drip, a half-papered wall, fully clothed people stepping in and out of the bathtub which is also centre stage.

There is an impending sense of interrupted domesticity, of the dull beige of an ordinary life splintered and taken over by colourful swathes of incident. A series of vignettes is played out, like re-enacted snapshots from a family album or scenes from a home movie, all recording the lead up to a life-changing incident. The accordion playing of the woman in red adds to the tenor of nostalgia, while the collaboration of Broken Talkers sustains the sense of narrative, despite being enveloped in memory and illusion.

Early on in the unraveling of this family tale, dancer Lee Clayden stumbles and clatters on to the stage, one foot in a slipper, and his ensuing energetic solo is marked by wide dance moves, as he flails expansively across the stage. Meanwhile the child (an accomplished and truly athletic performance by eleven year-old Joshua Dyson) is seen complete with uniform, preparing for his cub scout badges.

As usual with Junk Ensemble there are characterful dance performances and enduring images. The Kennedy sisters and Clayden interchange as brother and sisters, father and daughters and more, with Dyson intervening as annoying brother, endearing child and versatile actor.

The dancing visuals abound too: a phrase of dance sees Clayden and the Kennedys in close, elbowing, clambering moves, clustering legs around bodies, shouldering and protecting each other as if to ward off loss. Equal urgency pervades an ingenious and hilarious sequence where a trampoline replaces a more conventional ladder in tackling the unfinished wallpapering job.

Then there is the duet with the inter-venous drip and the spewing of water from the mouths of the performers in their final circle of dance, a last allusion to uisce beatha, water of life. Elusive, playful, uplifting and haunting, the ever-original Junk Ensemble were more than equal to the task of igniting this year's festival.

SEONA MAC REAMOINN