THE IRISH TIMES Tuesday May 11, 2010

Five Ways to Drown
Dublin Dance Festival, Project Arts Centre

In past years, the Dublin Dance Festival was launched at glitzy openings in the Abbey Theatre by the likes of Merce Cunningham and Mark Morris, but this year the honour went to the young Irish company Junk Ensemble in the more intimate Project Arts Centre. Writing in the programme, festival director Laurie Uprichard urges audiences to “take a chance and be curious”, a catch cry that could be applied to her programming.

There may have been many prudent reasons to forsake the gala, but choosing a new work by a relatively new company reflects Uprichard’s curatorial bravery, a gamble that paid off both at the box office and on stage.

Five Ways to Drown introduces us to a slice of beige family life, where the dull feeling of futility constantly gnaws on the soul.

Choreographers Jessica and Megan Kennedy are joined by Lee Clayden, Mary O’Connor and the young Joshua Dyson, whose boyish attention-seeking contrasts with the rest of the family who are drowning in mundanity and oblivious to the richness of life possible through his eyes. Instead, he measures ambition in a proud collection of cub-scout badges for pursuits such as Morse code, rope skills and swimming.

Typically for Junk Ensemble, there is an attractively unvarnished feel to Five Ways to Drown and the choreographers are happy to let images and vignettes speak for themselves so that the audience find their own connections. But the drowning metaphor is never far away. Aedin Cosgrove’s impressive visual setting includes watery images behind a scrim, while Denis Clohessy’s music features breathy songs and the wheezy lungs of accordion and harmonium played live onstage. Even a final unison quartet, with joyous leaps and lurches, is punctuated with mouthfuls of water spat out onstage, as if expectorating a dull past.

Junk Ensemble regulars might yearn for more of the intriguing obtuseness of past works, but Five Ways to Drown is absorbing and affecting – and a fitting opener to this year’s Dublin Dance Festival.