This disconcerting dance theatre piece from the Welsh ensemble of Light, Ladd and Emberton was first produced for the BBC’s #DancePassion series in 2019, and now receives a showing on the Zoo TV platform for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Caitlin was the wife of poet Dylan Thomas, known for his hard drinking and passionately lyrical poetry. After his death, she attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and this is where we find her, in a circle of empty chairs. Just one other chair is occupied by the husband who caused her so much pain and distress with his infidelities and desertions.
As she and Dylan fight through the ups and downs of their tempestuous marriage, this dance sequence takes on an edgy, jagged tone with explosions of stylised violence and physical battling. It is a powerful duet in which Caitlin (Eddie Ladd) and Dylan (Gwyn Emberton) reach in to catch the heart of each other’s vulnerabilities. The action is brutal, disturbing, anarchic, and the soundscore (by Thighpaulsandra) is discordant and strident.
In bringing the story of the pair into a language of physical intimacy and occasional brutality, this piece continues to engage and question our relationship to historical figures, as well as including a folding chair as an additional character, be it a mental obstacle or a bed of passion.
Commissioned by the National Library of Wales, for the Dylan Thomas centenary is 2014, Caitlin proves to be a work which is as complex and unreachable at points as the characters within it. As a duet, it has moments of strange beauty as the empty chairs mingle with the bodies of the performers to become part of the powerful struggle between art, addiction, and attraction. It is directed by Deborah Light and produced by Laura Drane.
Caitlin was available on ZooTV until 28th August 2020. It remains available on BBC iPlayer alongside other productions collated as #DancePassion, at https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p074tkc5
Reviewer: Louise Penn
Reviewed: 28th August 2020
North West End UK Rating: ★★★