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  • Chris O'Rourke

May B

Compagnie Maguy Marin: May B. Photo © Herve Deroo


Beckett can take us to dark places. Yet listening to a stout German lieder in the physical dark waiting for the lights to go on feels less like Beckett and more like someone forgot the show had started. If this was indeed the case, one suspects the playful Beckett would have approved. As he did when choreographer Maguy Marin asked him to allow her adapt his works in 1981. Now celebrating 40 years since the then unknown Marin received the great masters blessing, May B returns as headliner for Dublin Dance Festival's 2021 Winter Edition. And if it ultimately overstays its welcome, it proves itself still in a league of its own.

As ghostly bodies finally materialise, Louise Marin's costumes often suggest Dickens more than Beckett. Its five male and five female dancers looking like Jacob Marley's football team. In response to a whistle they shuffle and stop, finding cohesion through repetition, soon moving like a murmuration of zombies to the music of a military brass band. Making guttural noises like unshaped syllables, structured into a repeated pattern, like the worse beatboxers ever. Revealing musical and choreographic possibilities inherent in Beckett's work.

Compagnie Maguy Marin: May B. Photo © Herve Deroo

Traces of Commedia dell'arte further inform Louise Marin's costumes. Married to Lecoq style clowning and mask work, individual expression within the uniformity of the ensemble is impressively rendered. Collectively flowing into mesmerising scenes in which dancers Kostia Chaix, Antoine Laval, Lazare Huet, Louise Mariotte, Lise Messina, Isabelle Missal, Cathy Polo, Agnès Potie, Rolando Rocha and Ennio Sammarco appear both individually present yet inseperable from the group. Discovering sex, violence, greed, cake, gluttony and envy. All the joys and trials of life courtesy of the seven deadly sins, made infinitely richer by Alexandre Beneteaud's superb lighting and cameos from some recognisible characters.

Throughout, Marin's painstaking choreography is simply mind-blowing, crafted with a Feldenkrais level of detail married to a Lecoq like physicality, with just a touch of comedian Max Wall. Shifting, shuffling, striking tableaus; patterns continually emerge giving expression to the earnestness of Beckett's lost souls whilst also looking like a monster mash party at the Addam's Family mansion. As the end draws near dancers dress shabbily, carrying tattered suitcases, and May B resonates in a whole other way. Speaking to a homelessness both thematically Beckettian and tragically of this world. Lending a touch of genius to the manner in which dancers escape the stage, their shoes left like ghostly presences, in a scene of utter humanity steeped in wonderful theatricality. Delivering one of the best endings you're likely to see. If it only it had ended there.

Compagnie Maguy Marin: May B. Photo © Herve Deroo

Instead, May B indulges in yet more cycles of repetition. Dancers moving diagonally, then off stage as another emerges stage left, like extras in a low budget episode to The Walking Dead. Indeed, it could be argued that everything following their escape is little more than a tagged on epilogue, serving up a durational phyrric victory at best. Including a fragment of song whose endless repetition borders on trauma. Yet as a solo tableau is struck, and the lights fade, you too begin to feel a little Dickensian. Wanting to ask, "please, may I have some more?"

If May B feels unnecessarily durational, Marin's breathtaking choreography is utterly magnificent, articulating a rich cornucopia of Beckettian themes. Rarely has Beckett been made this much fun and looked so good while doing it. An orgy of organised chaos beautifully choreographed, May B is dance of the highest quality. A work utterly original and outstanding that stands the test of time. An apt definition of a classic.

May B, by Compagnie Maguy Marin, runs as part of Dublin Dance Festival's 2021 Winter Edition until Nov 7.

For more information, visit Dublin Dance Festival's 2021


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