A singer and dancer explore the notion of memory being recorded and frozen in the material world: our actions, feelings and thoughts remaining in matter eternally. It sounds like a tall order. And, unfortunately, it is. Even for celebrated choreographer and dancer Breandán de Gallaí, accompanied by singer Gina Boreham. For "Walls Talk,” directed and choreographed by de Gallaí, offers not so much a study of memory so much as a trip down memory lane. One where most of the streetlights are broken, with what remains being framed in the tropes of an easy nostalgia.
It’s not walls or objects that house memory in "Walls Talk,” but songs. And overtly nostalgic songs at that. Predictable jazz and blues standards delivered with a problematic emotional down play, often to their detriment. What objects there are lie silently stacked on stage as a mountain of props that speak to no one. The paraphernalia of a past being unpacked and repacked being a well worn and conceptually unimaginative ploy. Why these particular objects is to be inferred - no hard task there - with most looking isolated, unused, and uninteresting. As silent and lifeless as the walls that surround them.
Indeed, the only consistent visual of interest is Tim Feehily’s overworked and over compensating lights. Under which a mostly barefoot de Gallaí has moments that shine. Sean Nós becomes a recurring motif, as do pained stretches and recoiling slaps. Swirling in circles or shovelling earth, or echoing Playboy of the Western World, de Gallaí suggests something deeper trying to break through. But its too little and far too infrequent, with points being choreographically laboured rather than made, making the whole look visually staid.
Particularly as Boreham, unfairly no doubt, comes across as the type of singer who’d be more comfortable in the studio than on the stage. If her tone has a wonderfully haunting hollowness, her range and phrasing, like her expression, presence, and movements, are often constrained within an imposed, restrictive neutrality. Causing classics like For All We Know and I’ll Be Seeing You to depress under the weight, despite some ambitious arrangements by Joe Csibi, Zac Gvi, Paddy Mulcahy and Fiachra Ó Corragáin. Throughout, de Gallaí and Boreham occupy the same stage but rarely the same space, lost in separate, if similar reveries. Rare occasions when they do connect, like the shared slow walk in a corridor of light, has all the hallmarks of a loveless marriage, as does a cold waltz. Knee deep in love, lovelessness, and the memory of love, along with ideas of wasted lives and second chances, "Walls Talk" can feel less about wanting to remember so much as trying to forget.
As works like his remarkable Linger show, de Gallaí is a choreographer unafraid to dig deep. Threading over hollow rather than holy ground, "Walls Talk" never quite finds its feet, getting lost in nostalgic and choreographic tropes which never break new ground. Something de Gallaí is more than capable of doing. And will no doubt do again.
"Walls Talk,” directed, choreographed and performed by Breandán de Gallaí, accompanied by singer Gina Boreham, presented by Ériu Dance Company, runs at the Project Arts Centre until January 29.
For more information, visit the Project Arts Centre.