Clod Ensemble are a company renowned for breaking the barriers of traditional drama. They challenge, they experiment and they throw themselves into the public’s attention. Unafraid to take risks, they take their work into new territories, forcing the audience to re-think their expectations and perception of theatre.
An Anatomie in Four Quarters was of course no exception to this. Despite knowing about the enchanting work of Clod, I really did not know what to expect. The press and marketing around the performance gave little away; a bold (but wise) decision in my opinion.
Before the performance, the audience were led to the top floor of the Wales Millennium Centre. Looking at my ticket, I realised that we hadn’t been assigned seats. Everyone around looked the same as I felt: a bit confused, uncertain of what to expect and excited. We were led into the upper circle where we were told to fill the middle four rows. A hush fell across the auditorium. And with that, the most exciting and thought-provoking piece of theatre I have ever seen begun with an almighty bang.
An Anatomie in Four Quarters was “a celebration of the physical structure of the bodies we inhabit and the ways we attempt to see, define, contain, name and value them.” It took the way we perceive the body and broke it into a million pieces, threw it around a bit and then pulled it back together. The way Clod played with choreography, audience viewpoint and music was exceptional. Each movement was a mesmerizing dissection of the body, taking hold of your senses and pulling you into the performance.
Presented in “four quarters”, each section of the performance literally took the audience on a journey across the beautiful space that is the Donald Gordan Theatre. Travelling from the Upper Circle, to the Raised Stalls, down to the Lower Stalls and then eventually up onto the stage, the audience was provided with the tools to view the performance from a variety of compelling positions. The dancers themselves used the theatre to its full advantage, crossing between the main stage, the seating area and even positioning themselves across the ceiling (with only their feet visible to the audience). It was an experience I have never had before. Not only was it captivating to perceive the same piece of dance from different perspectives, but also to be introduced to different areas of the theatre was a beautiful experience.
The music across the four sections also played a huge part in the evening. Slipping between live strings, percussion, bagpipes and a powerful guitar and drum score, the audience was again forced to reconsider the way they saw the dance. My personal favourite composition was the partnership between the enthralling contemporary movements and the heavy rock accompaniment. It took my breath away. Two seemingly parallel forms of art were presented in a way that was natural, dynamic and explosive. I literally found myself leaning forward in my seat, jaw-dropped, as I was pulled further and further into the performance.
The final section had to be the highlight. Invited onto the stage, the audience were encouraged to take their time as they weaved in and out of the performers. Standing so close to these exceptionally-talented dancers was incredible. You could see every single bit of muscle definition, the sheer strength of their movements and the fluidity of their bodies. Unfazed the dancers performed just as beautifully as when you were sat right at the back of the theatre. Staring at you straight in the eyes you were drawn even more deeply into the performance.
As the audience took to the seats at the back of the stage, the show continued. Seeing it from this position, and seeing the empty theatre in all its glory was the most exhilarating feeling. You were a part of the performance. You were a part of the dissection.
Closing in a spectacular way (a way that I don’t want to give away!) the audience erupted. Together we had been taken on the most fascinating journey, and the ending drew it to a close in the most spellbinding fashion.
An Anatomie in Four Quarters was the perfect blend of video and spoken art, live music, site specific choreography and audience interaction. It was adventurous, intelligent and hypnotic; it called into question everything you might have considered classic art.
You cannot put into words the feeling it left you with. It really is something that has to be seen to be believed.