The Place, London
March 15, 2017
James Cousins’ R O S A L I N D (as he writes it) is a brave and beautiful piece of chamber theatre. The title gives a clue, set in bold capitals with space between for reflection. The piece works on many levels; while the dance is often thrusting and forceful, the aftertaste is the still, thoughtful image of Chihiro Kawasaki, who takes on the title role.
Shakespeare’s Rosalind is one of his most enchanting creations: a woman of strength and compassion whose qualities resonate with us today. Cousins, in his fine-tuned choreography and with four dancers who find each quirk and nuance, encompasses this range.
The simple set, just a skeletal neon cube in a black box, creates an interior and an exterior with liminal boundaries. The effective costumes by Insook Choi morph from neutralising underwear through suits and dresses, which distinguish male and female, to theatrical dress-coats: tulle skirts below topped by tailored embroidered jackets giving a hint of Renaissance androgyny for the spirited dance finale. The costumes serve as a guide through the labyrinth of changes in gender and relationships at the heart of the work.
Cousins’ choreography absorbs and defines by turns these indeterminate states as the dancers alternate strength and lyricism, supporting and being supported. One sequence perfectly captured the essence: Kawasaki sitting on the shoulders of Heejung Kim peeled off an article of clothing before tumbling backwards, crawling between her partner’s legs and hoisting her aloft. The sequence continuing in mesmeric slow motion as the women stripped off gendered layers, dresses then male jackets and trousers before getting down to minimal basics: a complex concept envisioned in ingenious movement.
Cousins has assembled a remarkable team of dancers, Kawasaki and Kim joined by Inho Cho and Georges Hann. Whether dancing solo, in duets or as an ensemble they move with animal fluidity as they roll over the floor or skim the surface. All are skilled in partnering, catching and tumbling as well as simply moving with human grace in Cousins’ remarkable choreography.
All the elements of the production are first-rate. Lee Curran’s lighting gives the set a whole wardrobe of guises while Seymour Milton’s sound score supports the action. It neither dominates nor stays politely neutral even reaching blasting point at times and always playing its part in a gripping production.
R O S A L I N D continues on tour. Visit www.jamescousinscompany.com for dates and venues.