- Chris O'Rourke
Dublin Dance Festival 2023: Best Regards
Marco D’Agostin in Best Regards. Image by Alice Brazzit
There’s an understandable concern, sometimes misplaced, seeing a dancer take to the stage clutching a microphone. What is it they have to say that their movement falls short of saying? In the case of Best Regards, an awful lot that doesn’t amount to very much. Italian dancer and choreographer Marco D’Agostin beginning by explaining what "Dear N" lighting up string curtains means. Referring, it transpires, to DV8 Physical Theatre founder Nigel Charnock, a mentor of D’Agostin’s. “Dear N, you were too much,” the words with which dancer Wendy Houston opened her farewell letter a few days after Charnock’s death. Letter and text serving as a jumping off point into a modest meditation on letter writing that’s also something of a weak homage.
D’Agostin, an easy speaker with presence and charm, and a captivating singing voice, elucidates on the importance of letter writing. Not for the last time will D’Agostin make his point but not his case. As for Charnock, he might be there, somewhere, in spirit. A letter device used in one of Charnock’s previous works gives D’Agostin something to work off. As for the audience, you walk away knowing about as much about Charnock as you did when you came in.
There are some fascinating soundbites on letter writing. On the introduction of the stamp, about the letters of Virgina Woolf, Elizabeth Bishop, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Even some half clever notion on the letter as linking past, present and future. Not a lot about Charnock though, even as he serves as the driving force. Eventually, without fuss, an effective segue into movement and song finally arrives, accompanied by the string curtains lighting up with text. Wild, word association song titles follow; the whole becoming fractured and repetitive, reminiscent of a badly remixed poetry slam. Married to a series of snapped, often repeated movements that come hard and fast, like rapid power punches that land without impact. A flurry of props adding flashes of humour thrown in like the kitchen sink, all energy and sparkle but little ingenuity. The whole looking improvised. Stream of consciousness. If only the stream hadn’t been so shallow.
As the end draws near, a return to the letter device feels forced, pretentiously seeking a tender farewell. A letter written to the beloved people of Dublin several days ago by a colleague in Italy is read to the audience, opened onstage for the first time. A letter without hope of a reply. Advocating an asinine, if well intentioned check in on yourself. A final attempt to leave the audience singing falls on mainly deaf ears. A mostly mute response to the flashing, brainwashing lyrics as D’Agostin leaves the stage. In the dark it’s become clear. Charnock might have been too much, Best Regards is no way near enough.
Best Regards, created and performed by Marco D’Agostin, runs at Project Arts Centre as part of Dublin Dance Festival 2023 until May 27.
For more information visit Project Arts Centre or Dublin Dance Festival