Verbatim theatre can often be stagnant and pointless, but with Carrie Cracknell’s haunting new production at the Gate, she has led an eclectic artistic team to create a haunting and moving piece of dance theatre.
Taking the transcripts of 999 callers, previously published in The Guardian, Cracknell presents us with an ensemble of dancer/actor/singers who slip between victims, callers, operators and witnesses as quickly as how your life can turn upside down if you had to make that call.
The four bodies occupy what seems to be a cross between crash mat and safety net, pulled tightly by thick ropes. Holly Waddington’s design cleverly creates a world which feels safe, but could break down at any moment. The performers tentatively look over the edge before being spun into another emergency.
Each situation is represented through gestural dance and tensely dramatised scenes, accompanied by Tom Mills’ evocative, Sigur Ros-influenced score. A husband tries to revive his wife who has choked on a prawn sandwich, a woman gives birth at home alone, a five year old waits for the ambulance to arrive after his mother has collapsed. What could have been overwrought reproductions of scenes from Casualty are delicately handled and ably performed by the commanding ensemble.
Although certain motifs are overused, Jane Mason’s choreography gently submerges us into the inner world of the callers and victims through incredibly tense and distorted movements. Add to this Lucy Carter’s sublime lighting design and you have a plethora of striking images which poignantly linger in the memory.