JUNK ENSEMBLE
IRISH THEATRE MAGAZINE
The Falling Song
MAY 18 2012

Seona Mac Reamoinn

A young man perched atop a ladder, from which trails a hanging looped rope, begins to peel an apple. It happens towards the end of this adrenalin pumping and unsettling new work from junk ensemble and we watch the curling skin of the fruit winding down to the core in a seamless loop. Is it luscious fruit or soured to the core? Or, like the bitter sweet memories of male friendship and physicality, which The Falling Song evokes and explores with huge aplomb?

Part chamber work, part dance opera, The Falling Song plays with life's light and shadows, where reality can sometimes fall short of dreams. It's the male sensibility that junk ensemble have chosen to illuminate, with characteristic risk and insight. They create a heady masculine world of physicality in The Falling Song and the performance teems with energy, theatricality and even tenderness. Yet we are ever alert to that darkness lurking in the world of boyhood play-acting, knowing that exuberant and aggressive male bravado can have a flattening downside.

Our companions on this journey into the hermetic world of male physical contact, from boyhood and beyond, are four characters brilliantly danced and played by Omar Gordon, Carl Harrison, Eddie Kay and Jesse Kovarsky, each with individual quirks and anxieties. They grapple and confront, shoulder and embrace, they are supportive, taunting and even affectionate and it is all wonderfully observed in Megan and Jessica Kennedy's choreography. You can feel the visceral thrill they elicit from each encounter. From the moment they appear on stage, all unthinking enthusiasm as they scramble with shoelaces while already running, its clearly all about the headlong rush, the race against time.

They are four musketeers, four flying horsemen, four Peter Pans seeking to defy gravity. They scale the ladders to the sky reaching out, defiant and fearful at the same time. But they are bonded and inseparable and while propelling each other to take the jump into the unknown, together they take on one another's fears, their bodies held and released, rising and falling as they support. When they finally take the plunge, it is sudden movement, one sailing all limbs outstretched after the other, landing face-down on the stacked mattresses. It is liberating, safe and a shared experience, but the splatting full-force fall has a disturbing undercurrent of finality.

We are aware of this when we watch them later too, swaggering now in their separate ways, all exhibiting macho self-confidence or observing as one tries to cope with a lost love, caught in a downward spiral, his bravado diluted, his movements slackening. Or a blindfolded young girl who is led across the stage and pushed on to a bed as in a surfacing disturbing memory. Perhaps no safe mattresses now to catch a lonely falling body as the ropes hang ominously close. But shadows evaporate, the lightness returns, the shared memory of a bonding boyhood fantasy is summoned and the Kennedys' signature quirky humour bubbles up. Once again our hapless jilted hero is the glorious skating trapeze artist, in bright blue spangled boots, his acolytes (in blue socks) supporting him as he glides and leaps, revelling in the imagined adulation. It's a marvellous sequence, equal to any girlish fantasy of being transformed into a sugar plum fairy.

junk ensemble is not afraid to question and to collaborate and do not disappoint in artistic experiment with bold visual staging and musical adventuring. In common with the character/dancers, they are testing extremes and oppositional forces. Who else but junk ensemble would have Aedin Cosgrove's staging combine noose-like ropes trailing from ladders and then introduce from time to time a sweet voiced children's choir? Their presence is sometimes a distraction from the strong relentless movement but the melodic simple hymns to truthfulness they sing and signal are not. More successful in performance is the one-man-band of musician George Higgs conjuring Denis Clohessy's sound composition, his bandstand of bicycle spokes, zithers, guitars and jangling cans perfectly executed.