Society has always had an obsession with the naked body. Lovers explore its sensuality, artists study its form, scientists analyse its anatomy, and dancers mimic its expression. Whilst most things lose their value the more common they are, the naked form – something that everyone already has in their possession – seems to be priceless. So, what exactly is it that fascinates us so?
N A K E D explores two such bodies, exploring their relationship to one another, as well as their own identity, through various forms of physical expression. Beginning in a cocoon of clingfilm (seemingly the most accurate definition of a COVID-bubble), their bodies writhe in search of understanding and release. It contrasts the very essence of free form movement, to see the performers entombed – their limbs and sinew unable to express as limbs and sinew are so designed to do. Upon their escape, there is a heavy sigh of relief as we feel breath fill their muscles and the true journey begins.
Pre-recorded live at The Cockpit Theatre, the performance features Mx Vincent and Paige-Marie Baker-Carroll – who are not only the performers but also the creative minds behind the show, as artistic directors of NAKEDpresents. Creating a show from conception to stage has allowed Vincent and Baker-Carroll to really play with their ideas in a way that suits them – to find inspiration like a thread and follow it to its finality. Avoiding the usual constraints of literal narrative, the story changes tact and pace like a ping-pong ball, not always where you expect, but always moving until it’s over.
Above all, the performers show an amazing ability to express themselves freely through movement, with the strength to support each other physically and controlling every movement with precision. Watching them, reminded me of Meyerhold’s theatre practices of Biomechanics, which uses constantly original movements to develop emotional reactions within the actors on stage. The difference here, of course, is that in Biomechanics every movement is pre-rehearsed down to the tiniest detail, whereas in N A K E D, there is improvisation in the movements and a feeling of endless possibility that extends beyond the performance.
Though at times slightly hard to follow, mostly due to this reluctance to fix the story to a singular meaning, it does allow us as an audience to imprint a certain level of our own understanding onto the piece. Adding to it our own emotion, our own experience of relationships, of contact. I find myself drawn, not to a whole piece, but to phrases within it: small moments that meant something bigger than everything combined.
Perhaps what N A K E D shows us is that our obsession with the naked form is due to how easily it can serve as a blank canvas, a canvas upon which we can imprint ourselves and see what might have been, or what could be. Giving us the power to explore emotions that we cannot quite face in ourselves. Or maybe that’s just what I take from it.
Isn’t theatre wonderful?
N A K E D is showing online until 22nd November. For more information and to book, visit the Voila! Festival website.