The performance begins with a woman walking away from the audience carrying two large suitcases. She’s moving slowly, her back is bent. She stops to rest and she sighs. It appears her emotional as well as her physical load is hard to bear.
I want to spring from my seat, put my arms around her and then help her carry those bags to her unknown destination. I know I can’t help her. She must bear the weight of her hopes, fears and ambitions alone.
This nameless, voiceless character is just one of over 50 real life stories from North East women that have been blended together by Red Road Dance Theatre to create The Sense of an Ending.
The company’s artistic director, Nadia Iftkhar gathered stories of loss, abuse and grief as well as passion and unbridled joy from women ranging in age from 21 to 82.
Nadia, who grew up in Walker and took her inspiration for the piece from her Nan, describes The Sense of an Ending as “a love letter to women everywhere who have survival stories that may never have been told and a celebration of their strength, intuition and courage.”
The Sense of an Ending is comprised of three powerful and wholly authentic solo performances. Firstly Molly Hodkinson expresses happiness and grief then Kate Jackson shows fear and hypervigilance and hints at a childhood wrenched rather than stolen from her. Finally Caroline Reece’s extraordinary floor-based dance hypnotises and helps resolve the pain of the first two performances.
The soundtrack, created by Al Orange and based on the women’s stories, is pitch perfect. Tracks range from Irving Berlin’s Cheek to Cheek, to Fairground Attraction’s Perfect via Creedence Clearwater Revival and Warren Zevon. The music works with the strong visuals by filmmaker Jamie Korn to help express unmentionable, unpalatable emotions and feelings.
The dancers make full use of space including floor and back wall to evoke the painful struggle of life’s journey. My one criticism is that there might, just might, be too many voices in the piece. I fear that some of the storylines have got lost in the clamour of louder voices.
This grumble was overpowered on the night by the warmth and positive response of the audience. Red Road Dance Theatre was playing to the home crowd which included some of the women who contributed stories, including Nadia’s best friend, her inspirational Nan.
Nadia hopes to take The Sense of an Ending to other countries, compiling the stories of local women and creating fresh performances. I’d like to see her ambition realised. This is a beautiful and moving tribute to women of all ages.
You can catch The Sense of an Ending at Washington Arts Centre on 27th November 2014 and next year in London at the Robin Howard Dance Theatre on 13th Feb 2015.