JUNK ENSEMBLE
RACHEL DONNELLY

JUNE 2012

One of Sigmund Freud's crackpot theories has it that we all possess a 'death drive', an impulse that pushes us towards our own destruction. The source of this seemingly madcap notion is a mixture of shaky physics (all matter wants to return to its inanimate state, spurred on by the force of gravity) and Freud's observations of certain patients who would re-create traumatic experiences from their past.

Irish dance company junk ensemble's The Falling Song, one of the highlights from this year's Dublin Dance Festival (DDF), was an interesting play on this idea. Featuring an ambitious stage set, half children's playground, half urban jungle, with towering ladders, stacked mattresses, mounds of apples and a children's choir, the performance explored the idea of the parameters of masculinity in a time of ever-shifting standards and definitions. This was a brilliant example of fully-rounded theatre which includes theatrical elements (song, spoken word, props) that don't undermine or overwhelm the choreography but rather frame it beautifully.

The wonder of this work is how it manages to be so many things at once: tender, irreverent, poignant, insightful and slapstick. As a spectacle, it's impressive by virtue of its brave athleticism, with the four male dancers engaging in kamikaze acrobatic displays throughout, toppling face-forward onto the mattresses from the head-spinning height of the ladders (the daredevil nature of which can be gauged by the horrified gasps from the audience) and pole-vaulting across the stage with reckless abandon.

In the quality of the movement, which varies from the mincing camp to the primitively male, we can see a mixture of childishness, frustrated masculinity, bravado and closeted pain. The clue to the source of the male angst palpable here (fear of abandonment, hurt from failed relationships, wariness of falling for someone again) can be found in the words of the songs sung sweetly by the Piccolo Lasso Choir, the high, clear voices of the children forming a curious but effective backdrop to the hyper-male capering of the four dancers.