Saturday, July 13

Sentient – Everyman Theatre

The world premiere of Sentient, a Beckett: Unbound 2024 Festival commission from choreographer Liz Roche, in collaboration with performer/composers Nathalie Forget and Nick Roth, is a major full-length work for six dancers (Sarah Cerneaux, Emily Terndrup, Mufutau Yusuf, Conor Thomas Doherty, Grace Cuny, Inez Berdychowska), saxophone and ondes Martenot, an early electronic musical instrument.

As a response to an innocuous seeming passage in Samuel Beckett’s Molly where the author explores his wonder at the behaviour of bees –  Beckett’s fascination came from German-Austrian ethologist Karl von Frisch’s Nobel-prize winning description of the precise way in which bees communicate information through their orientation, height, and movement – the piece is designed to offer a new interpretation of what it means as a human being to be only one part of the natural world amidst its vast communicative complexities.

The thrust stage at Liverpool Everyman provides a space, somewhere between social urgency and urgent sociality, for the work to move through different atmospheres exploring vibration, language, and group communication, with the performers collectively in adaptation to these changing environments. Such a wide and diverse range of experiences requires strong choreography which on the whole was there although on occasion timing of movements seemed less coordinated, although that may have been intended, and perhaps reflects the challenge of an opening night: it didn’t detract from the overall experience.

The pre-recorded voicings at the beginning from Jenny Roche and Adrian Dunbar prompted a physical response on stage which captured the haunted search for one’s identity and true self, the need for space and perhaps silence to help decipher the surrounding noise, with the connection to Beckett’s Molloy clearer towards the end.

As a strong piece of physical theatre, it echoes Beckett’s own experimental use of different medium to explore and communicate ideas, and this concept is carried through in Katie Davenport’s set and costume design, and Sinead McKenna’s lighting design, although I would have preferred more consistency in the choice of underclothes for the performers that accorded with their overalls.

Sentient by Liz Roche is commissioned by Unreal Cities for Beckett: Unbound, Liverpool/Paris 2024, in association with the Institute of Irish Studies at the University of Liverpool and the Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris. Produced by Liz Roche Company and funded by The Arts Council/ An Chomhairle Ealaíon and supported by Culture Ireland.

Sentient is further supported through partnerships with The Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, University of Limerick and TROIS C-L – Centre de Création Chorégraphique Luxembourgeois.

Sentient performs in Liverpool and Paris as part of the Beckett: Unbound 2024 Festival. Further details including booking available for Liverpool at https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/humanities-and-social-sciences/research/beckett/ and Paris at https://www.centreculturelirlandais.com/en/whats-on/exhibitions-events/festival-beckett-unbound

Reviewer: Mark Davoren

Reviewed: 30th May 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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