For a dancer, the body is an instrument, a tool, a direct connection to the spirit. INTACT, then, uses movement and dance to explore the body after injury, processing trauma, and being reinvented. For the performer, the relationship between mind and body is paramount to telling this story.
The performer (Olivia Hadley) entered abruptly as the puppet for a military recruitment advertisement which promised fulfilled potential and sky-high dreams. Quickly the soldier encountered combat and injury resulting in the loss of movement in their legs. Isolated in hospital, the ex-soldier now had to rediscover their body, finding new possibilities of movement and expression.
Devised by Cecile Payet, Emily Yalli, and Sabrina Muszynski, INTACT used the military as a brief contextualising devise with some romanticisation of active service but, largely, the production was focused on the consequences of injury and disability. The movement work was divided into episodes of recruitment, combat, initial injury, recovery, and a hopeful glimpse of the future in the final moments with lighting design by Travis Kecek delineating each segment. The set design by Sam Wylie was simple with an industrial trolley table and ropes to create metaphorical tangles. Martin Gallagher’s sound design was saturated with layers of diegetic sound like gunshots and the rhythmic pumping of a ventilator supported by instrumental violins and drums. These highly emotive soundscapes filled out the production design to construct the soldier’s world as they transitioned from combat to the hospital and the emotional waves that entailed.
Hadley’s performance was refined and engaging. She demonstrated the ability to make even jolted, awkward movement seem elegant and controlled. In particular, a dream-like encounter between the ex-soldier on their gun that turned into a twisting-turning nightmare was mesmerising for its repetitive yet wild physicality.
As the ex-soldier processed their injury and began to experiment with other forms of movement, the production took on a playful tone with a warmer lighting design and freer choreography incorporating a wheelie chair. This opened up the production to explore the character’s relationship with their disability without a pitying or belittling lens. That being said, perhaps the most troubling aspect of the ex-soldier’s story was their complete isolation, particularly during critical stages of their early recovery. This isolation kept the commentary of the production insular, contained within the immediate experience and thoughts of the character. That leaves INTACT either limiting in its scope or illuminating in its specificity, depending on the audiences’ relationship to disability and disability stories, a woefully underrepresented demographic.
Overall, INTACT was a gentle depiction in movement of the body and its limitations and possibilities with strong narrative choreography and an immersive production design.
INTACT is running at Woodburn Creatives from May 26th – June 27th
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