Man At The Door (Number 54)

Cork Midsummer Festival

28 June 2018

Michael Seaver

Personal identity was a common theme in two dance performances at Cork Midsummer, but the venue for each played as strong a role as the individual performers. Both venues also had a sense of impermanence that mirrored the ephemerality of the dance, one taking place in the soon-to-be-demolished Sunbeam Bingo Hall, the other inspired by Brian O’Doherty’s floor-to-ceiling murals at Sirius Arts Centre, hidden for decades and now on display again for one year.

The industrial exterior of Sunbeam Bingo Hall, located on the outskirts of Cork city, hides a faded grandeur within. On entering, a wide staircase and green marble floor leads to a waiting area for audience members with couches, coffee tables and knick-knacks from the 1950s. Hugh Scannell and Luca Squillacciotti (both members of youth dance group FC/DC) appear and are carried into the bingo hall wearing “Follow me” signs. Processing through the doors the audience find a dark low-ceilinged expanse with rows of four-seated booths and tables in symmetrical lines.

Like in the waiting area, designer Sarah Jane Shiels adds to the sense of nostalgia with frilly lamp shades hanging throughout the space and old knitting magazines strewn on the tables.

The notion of a doppelgänger is at the centre of the dance, traditionally treated with either bemusement or fear. As a narrative it can be found in folklore – Narcissus falling in love with his reflection, Nordic vardøgers or Egyptian kas – as well as particle physics and supersymmetry theory, which posits that every particle has a doppelgänger.

The proximity to the performers created a totally immersive experience

In Man At The Door (Number 54), choreographers (and identical twins) Jessica Kennedy and Megan Kennedy present themselves and the other dancers as sets of doubles with simple mirroring actions that set up an intriguing ambiguity of whether each performer is a doppelgänger or simply a reflection of the one person. A duet by Lucia Kickham and Siobhán Ní Dhuinnín suggests the latter, as they grapple with each other, one trying to suppress the other like a struggle between the ego and the id. This confrontational rivalry spilled in to later duets as the action grew darker and a black clothed faceless shadow menacingly emerged from under one of the tables (in some accounts evil doppelgängers had no shadow).

With the action taking place between, on and under the tables, the proximity to the performers created a totally immersive experience and the surroundings were at once cocooning and claustrophobic.

After their previous two works, Dolores (concerning the abuse of Dolores Haze in Nabokov’s Lolita) and Soldier Still (dealing with institutionalised violence), this work sees Junk Ensemble return to themes of inbetweenness and the ambiguity between dark and light. At the end of the work there is time for one last game of bingo as the hall is fittingly given the last word.