★★★★ Anchored in Joy
Simon Ward reviews Anchor at Camden People’s Theatre, March 22nd2019
This is a joyous delight. The genesis of the piece, as described in the programme, is exactly as you would expect. They were thrown together as if by chance and invited to collaborate. And have managed to produce a brilliant collaborative work. They explore the duality of the idea of a relationship as an anchor – if it is a source of stability, is it also holding you back from fulfilling your potential?
The authenticity and integrity of the performances from Elsa Couvreur and Mehdi Duman are utterly beguiling.
Full disclosure, I am not normally a dance fan. I was, however, delighted by Elsa Couvreur’s performance in The Sensemaker and therefore jumped at the chance to see more of her work here. As with The Sensemaker, the music is varied and often non-existent. The sounds we hear are the noises of bodies coming together, breathing, sweating. The difference this time is that there are two performers, but both equally committed and energetic.
With brutal simple physicality they brilliantly render the idea that you simply can’t get past someone you are meant to be with. They render the mutual teasing and bickering as the relationship forms and coagulates. They show the to-ing and fro-ing of power and attraction.
The show is sensual and erotic from the outset, when both performers emerge in their underwear in a set strewn with their clothes. The effect is not dissipated as they get dressed again – indeed this is reminiscent of the scenes in Don’t Look Now when Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie’s lovemaking and dressing are spliced together.
One of my problems with dance is the frustration that the actors cannot talk to each other, thereby losing one of our most fundamental means of communication. This show ingeniously turns that on its head by playing a scene where the protagonists dance through the soundtrack to their first meeting. Their direct physical embodiment of their incipient mutual attraction to the backtrack of party hubbub and their relatively banal chat is masterfully done, to exquisite effect.
If there are criticisms, you could perhaps argue that there is not enough development of the theme. We could perhaps have seen more arguing, jealousy, boredom. But my overall sense was that this was a joyful exploration of the delight of two people stumbling across each other and falling inexorably in love.
There is a primal aspect to any coupling – we know this has been going on for millennia. In an hilarious climax to proceedings, this is brought home to us to the strains of Elvis and a madcap costume change
Anchor by Woman’s Move and Cie Divisar
Greenside@Nicholson Square, Edinburgh
August 9, 2018. BY David Mead
“What is love?” a voice asks as the beginning of Anchor. “It can burn you… It can consume you.” We all have our own answers too. What is undoubtedly true, as the voice continues, is that love is a “strange, material, abstract force.” In some wise advice it suggests, “Where we go wrong is in trying to tame it.”
The idea that, “Love is like a bird” is the cue for some coo-ing dove like sounds. It’s also the start of a wonderfully accurate probing into the subject as choreographers and performers Elsa Couvreur and Mehdi Duman open the door on their relationship, playfully and with an always light-touch dig into their wants and needs.
The opening sets the tone. With both of them only in black underwear, he drags her, cave-man style, across the floor, through scattered discarded clothing, to the strains of ‘Only You’, before roles are reversed. We’re not told how we got here, but it doesn’t take much imagination.
When they dress, there’s a lot of pushing and pulling. They walk towards each other and dodge unsuccessfully. It’s love. A situation they are in but cannot escape from. However hard they may try, or at least think they try, they are anchored to each other.
There are references to pleasures and frustrations, and cats and dogs. There’s a little bit of audience participation. Personalities shine through. It’s all done with a smile and a sense of fun that you cannot help but to fall for.
There are love songs aplenty. One well done scene sees them swap in and out of different songs, using the words as a sort of discussion. “I will always love you,” sings one, very badly (deliberately) but with so much enthusiasm you believe fully.
Of course, there are frustrations and arguments too, the latter complete with pointy fingers. And they are often arguments about nothing really. “I love you more,” says one. “No, I love you more,” insists the other. Ah, love. Not always easy, you see. You just can’t help but recognise the situations and see yourself in it all.
Do you remember first meetings? The soundtrack includes a lovely recording of what sounds like a first meeting in a café, somewhere, the pair figuratively feeling each other out. It is very theatrical but there’s some quality dance in Anchor too, but again all done with that tongue firmly in that cheek.
It ends with the audience left alone to the strains of a cover of Elvis Presley’s ‘Can’t help falling in love’. It is a quite superb idea that allows a moment of reflection. Except that it’s not quite the end, because Couvreur and Duman have a surprise in store. Let’s just say it involves orange dinosaurs. Hilarious.
I smiled from start to finish, and was still doing so an hour later. “I can’t help falling in love with you” go the words of the song. And I defy anyone not to fall in love with Anchor, and the delightful Couvreur and Duman.
Anchor is at Greenside@Nicholson Square to August 11
The Sensemaker and The Anchor
Plays To See - 20.03.2019
This double-bill of dance pieces both star an impressive and athletic Elsa Couvreur – often centre stage without even music.
The Sensemaker is the tale of a woman’s struggle with a Kafka-esque bureaucracy. This play is in part commentary on the arbitrary nature of dealing with faceless machines, telephones and surveillance; part tale on the nature of the hoops we are increasingly forced to jump through as power dynamics in so many areas of our lives widen.
Couvreur dances alone for the whole hour. She follows the increasingly difficult, challenging and bizarre instructions of an unnamed disconnected and clearly mechanised voice as these get ever more bizarre. There are times when this becomes uncomfortable. Having made it clear they can see where she is, they then make her strip completely naked. Which goes on for long enough for the audience to feel uncomfortable and voyeuristic – which is perhaps the point.
For me, the piece ran slightly too long. The original was only 30 minutes and I would have liked to have seen this to compare. But in its length, it did manage to invoke the oppression of mundanity that dealing with such an unreasonable and unhuman system engenders.
The Anchor on the other hand is full of utterly charming joy. The tale of two lovers coming together, falling apart, communicating, miscommunicating and ending up together was expressed with passion, joie de vivre and a dance that showed the incredible core strength of both participants.
Again this piece had no original music, but played well with the classics it used and the silences were well-punctuated with the sounds of their lovers pursuit.
This was – perhaps the easier piece to love. It had all the fun and silliness of a new relationship. And perhaps that made it more accessible than The Sensemaker. This was an emotional space you wanted to be in.
Overall, both works were impressive and enjoyable if occasionally somewhat baffling.
A heart-warming look at love: Woman’s Move & Cie Divisar in Anchor
25.03.2019 BY Eleanor Sofflet - Seeing Dance
Before watching Anchor, one couldn’t help but smile upon reading the programme notes: “Somehow, we both felt it, and we had to do a show together.” Then further on: “What do you think about doing a show on love?” and “I wanted to suggest the same theme!” This exchange took place after a destined chance meeting between the pair at a dance workshop in Switzerland.
The conversation between Switzerland-based Elsa Couvreur (Woman’s Move) and Mehdi Duman (Cie Divisar) led to the creation of a duet that follows the lives of a couple. Premiered at last year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, it looks at the universal topic of love in all manner of wonderful and unexpected ways. Both dancers lovingly create a magical, playful, hour-long performance that is both comically uplifting and sweetly endearing. You can’t help but feel a part of their magic which is rather intimate tucked away in the warm, cosy space of the Camden People’s Theatre.
Most notable is that the two dancers have quite a lot of fun on stage. There is a delightful chemistry between them, and they share a great charisma that naturally captures the attention of the audience, where smiles, giggles and bursts of laughter are common place.
As the lights come up, the two are seen in underwear as they take turns in dragging each other across the stage, which is comically and lightly done to ‘Only You’ by The Platters, playing in the background. Later on, and fully dressed, more love ballads are featured as the pair simultaneously sing a compilation of well-known tunes to each other by the likes of Celine Dion, James Blunt and Whitney Houston.
In the show’s beginning, a thoughtful and truthful speech about love is spoken in the score, concluding with “Love is like a bird.” This sentiment is followed by a sweet and comical bird cooing that makes regular re-appearances from Mehdi Duman over the show’s duration. Other animal references appear too, one of which sees the pair playfully crawling in dog-like fashion around each other. There is meowing from Elsa Couvreur and a surprise ending where the two make a very different costume change. That conclusion is both funny and heart-warming.
Couvreur and Duman are inclusive with their watchers and get rather close to them, bringing members of the audience on stage and running around in a lively and frantic need to share their love. The audience are very much involved in all of this and are at one point clapping together with both of the dancers doing the same.
Within the naturally comedic aspects of the piece, there are moments of frustration that are exercised through screaming and shrieking at each other. Alongside this, Couvreur and Duman use different ways of saying, “I love you” or “I love you more” which becomes increasingly more competitive as they continue to express their affections. This eventually translates into a series of gestures and mouthing as they continue to describe how they love each other more, and at times becoming suggestive and saucy.
Among all the humour, there is a fondness and tenderness to their performance that is seen in the loving embraces that are exchanged, and particularly memorable in the final moments of the show. The charms and thoughtfulness of Anchor linger long after the show has ended and might make one think about the romances that they have in one’s own life.'
"Memoria" may 2018
Article by Katia Berger, la Tribune de Geneve.
Interview with Mehdi Duman on Radio Vostok for the show Memoria. (in French)
"Memory2Motion" 2016 & 2017