Whilst a spinal cord injury may seem like the end of a professional dancer’s career, Australian performer and choreographer Marc Brew proves that it is possible, against all odds, to continue to create and perform. His show For Now, I am . . ., although a little slow in places, is incredibly atmospheric, and serves as an example of ultimate perseverance and faith in the body and what it is capable of.
For Now, I am . . . recounts Brew’s rediscovery of his own body after being involved in a car crash which left him paralysed from the waist down, when he had previously worked as a professional dancer. He recalls waking in a clinical environment (which is recreated with a large white sheet covering the stage in the performance) and being told that he would never be able to walk again. Throughout the show, we see Brew’s experimentation with movement as he adjusts to his new circumstances and we join him on his journey to being able to choreograph and perform again.
The entire aesthetic of the show is stunning, with Andy Hamer’s beautifully ethereal lighting and simple but effective costume design. Brew’s costume, consisting simply of a pair of white shorts, is deceptively considered: the simplicity of the costume allows the audience to focus on Brew’s body and see the exertion of every muscle involved in executing each movement. Brew’s choreography is subtle but deliberate: with the majority of the movement coming from his hands and arms, it is reminiscent of tutting, but performed with more grace and fluidity. Brew demonstrates an acute awareness of his body, which really comes through in his performance. The piece, at times, does lack momentum, and I found myself waiting for something new and different to happen that didn’t come. In spite of this, Brew is incredibly engaging and emotive as a performer, and so he commands complete attention from the audience for the duration of the piece. The use of sound and music is also very effective. The music, composed by Claire McCue, is minimalistic in style and very much in keeping with Brew’s subtle choreography. The sound effects of water, created by David Thomas, Lisa Redfern and Mark Koenig are used throughout the piece, exploring the idea of water being an element of cleansing and healing in many religions and thus reflecting Brew’s own metaphorical rebirth.
For me personally, there was a bit of a disjoint between the dance and the dialogue in the show. Prior to watching it, I assumed that the dialogue would be incorporated into the dance, but it actually takes the form of a post-show discussion and thus seems slightly disconnected from the rest of the performance. Renowned percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie discusses collaboration in the arts with Brew, and although the talk is interesting, the audience seemed reticent to participate, perhaps not having expected a post-show discussion. I think were it promoted as a post-show discussion, the audience would be far more willing to participate.
The marrying of Brew’s deft performance and choreography with the beautiful aesthetic of the lighting design and use of sound makes for a highly emotive performance that leaves the audience feeling inspired by such a demonstration of tenacity. Well worth a watch for anyone interested in contemporary dance that wants to see something completely different.
For Now, I am . . . is playing the Lilian Baylis Studio until 11 March 2016. For more information and tickets, see the Sadler’s Wells website
Photo: Susan Hay