Lingering emotions: Company Chameleon in Witness

Laban Theatre, London
March 16, 2017

Maggie Foyer

Company Chameleon have for the last decade been touring nationally and internationally with their special blend of dance: creative, inclusive and all embracing. True to their ethos, the main work in the double bill was Witness, a work that explores mental health issues, a pressing but often unacknowledged concern in our modern society.

Choreographer/director Kevin Edward Turner bravely crafts the work into an intensely personal statement, drawing on his own experience. The dancers create the world around him as his mind veers between the real and the imagined. As in many extreme situations, it is not without that odd mix of pathos and dark humour but the overwhelming emotion is the love that emanates from his intimate circle.

WitnessPhoto Joel Chester Fildes
Photo Joel Chester Fildes

The unstable nature of the protagonist, Kevin (Turner uses his own name for the character), provides opportunities for a wealth of dance that is expressive and inventive to match the situation. His extreme mood swings are played out by two conflicting voices, Taylor Benjamin and Oliver Sale, battling like Faustus’ good and bad angels. In inventive choreography, they take opposing sides uplifting and crushing, supporting and demeaning him by turn.

The low point comes for Kevin when he is sectioned and separated from the love of his friends. In the clinical environment, he is surrounded by other patients their obsessive behaviour effectively worked into dance. Turner reaches with great sensitivity into the depths of loneliness and isolation. The last duet is particularly moving as his partner tries to support him physically and emotionally, working through his fears and delusions to return him to reality. Witness reached far into the dark auditorium loaded with lingering emotions.

Company Chameleon in Words UnspokenPhoto Joel Chester Fildes
Company Chameleon in Words Unspoken
Photo Joel Chester Fildes

The opening work, Words Unspoken, a UK premiere, bristles with personality as each dancer feeds something of themselves into the mix. In a black box, the simply lighting creates a misty ambiance as relationships switch with capricious speed while the musical score from O Yuki Conjugate & Ryuichi Sakamoto feeds into the unpredictability. This short work is constantly engaging, high energy but always with a human face and expertly showcasing the talents of the dancers. I was impressed by the three women, Helen Andrew, Maddie Shimwell and Marie Vaudin, the latter two still apprentices (although you would never have guessed) who had greater dance opportunities in this work and never missed a moment. It is heartening to note that Company Chameleon, who can offer a dance evening of this quality, are also actively involved in the important business of broadening participation.