As part of Ovalhouse’s final season at its original Kenninghton home – it moves to Brixton next year – it has commissioned artists to bring down the house, bricks, mortar and all.
As a work of destruction and exploration, We Dig rises to the challenge. Wearing a hardhat and scrabbling around the dig site – past hazard signs and pneumatic drills – things begin quietly as Emma Frankland chats about the theatre’s history and the nature of the project.
She’s joined by Gein Wong, Tamarra, Travis Alabanza and Morgan M Page, with whom she shares the physical labour of digging a gaping hole beneath the stage. It’s a strangely mesmerising thing to watch.
As they excavate ever deeper they explore the history of trans women and the trans feminine community. They talk about our connection with the earth. They reveal their dreams, fears, struggles and despairs with a raw honesty. They are the children of stress, Frankland declares; they dig so they are not crushed by the weight of a world in which they are not safe to be themselves.
Frankland skilfully weaves multiple themes together as she chips away at the rock. Danielle Brathwaithe-Shirley’s evocative sound design helps gently builds tension throughout, while Martha Godfrey’s bright, bold lighting makes the space into a beautiful demolition site.
We Dig is a well-structured and powerfully direct piece of theatre that mines the earth to create an illuminating and enthralling performance.