15 August 2013

Dusk Ahead at Kilkenny Arts Festival
Watergate Theatre
by Marc O'Sullivan

Junk Ensemble's 'Dusk Ahead' enjoyed its world premiere at Kilkenny Arts Festival last weekend. Junk Ensemble is an Irish company that has won critical kudos and several major awards for shows such as 'Bird with boy' and 'Drinking Dust'. They were artists-in-residence at Tate Britain in 2012.

Created and choreographed by Junk Ensemble founders Jessica and Megan Kennedy, 'Dusk Ahead' is inspired by what the French call "l'heure entre chien et loup" the hour between day and night during which one can not easily distinguish dog from wolf, or friend from foe. It also explores the subjects of blindness and invisibility.

Dusk Ahead features five dancers/musicians, along with cellist Zoe Ni Riordain. The show opens with blindfolded figures trying to find their way about the stage. Some extraordinary images follow.

Several sequences recall the fantastical drawings of Alice Maher. In one, two girls whose hair is inter-braided dance awkwardly, as if struggling to break free of the very thing that binds them together. It could be that this is inspired by the Kennedys being identical twins, bound by their mutual interest in dance. But more likely it is the acting out of some ancient folktale.

In another sequence, a boy and girl are conjoined by their mouths. They might be kissing, but the image is anything but sensual. Or they might be breathing life into each other, but it could just as easily be that they are sucking it out again. Either way, theirs is a terrible and seemingly inescapable struggle, and their mutual dependence is disturbing to witness.

There are later sequences where the characters carry each other about the stage, and in one scene a girl walks across the others' bodies. In the end, the dancers gather with Ni Riordain to sing, as if to reinforce the idea that there is safety in togetherness.