Reading Gesture

By Jack Beglin

Four women dressed in black stand in a circle. A fifth woman with blond hair and black glasses sits on the circumference of the circle on a high stool. The women are performing a series of choreographed hand gestures while a dramatic sound score plays from a large speaker in the corner of the room. Audience members file into the performance space, standing or sitting on chairs around the circle of women. These are ensemble members of The Dublin Theatre of The Deaf performing at the 2017 Dublin Live Art Festival at The Complex.

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A conversation of hand and facial gestures is taking place between the woman sitting on the stool and the women standing, who resemble a chorus. Their hands on their heads resemble crowns. United by performing the synchronised mudras, the gestural score becomes clearer with every repetition.

With a whipping action, the sitting woman points towards each of the standing women; she then presses her finger to her temple and points to the ceiling with shifting eyes.

The chorus move their hands from their heads as their arms lower towards the ground in a Tai Chi like motion. The ensemble raise their forearms at the elbow and in a wave-like motion alternate their palms from facing the ground to the ceiling.

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The woman on the stool observes this gesture with a slow rotation of her head.

The chorus make a gesture resembling that of picking tea leaves in the field. Next they look at one another knowingly,  hovering  their index and middle finger over their eyes. They pull their  fingers down in a slow, scratching gesture. They raise their hands and shake their fingers as the sound score builds to a climax.

The woman sitting on the stool looks on, worried.

The standing women smash a clenched fist on each palm, alternating from left to right in a powerful motion. A gesture resembling Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam is made before the ensemble adopts  postures resembling Greek statues that bow in reverence. The women then place their hands on their heads as if donning a crown.

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With a whip- like action, the sitting woman on the bar stool points to the chorus as their arms lower towards the ground in a Tai Chi like motion. This score is repeated over and over, complimented by the epic sound score.

The sound score is for the audience. It is an additional dramaturgical element that allows us to build associations with the gestures. The performers, however, are inhabiting a world of touch and kinaesthetic response devoid of sound.

This performance of ensemble gesture and music didn’t have an obvious dramaturgy for audience members to read. It illustrated the basic elements necessary for the making performance: a  precise and repeated structure of actions These abstract actions were structured into a pattern of repeated gestures for the audience to interpret in its own way.

My personal interpretation follows:

The throned monarch sits while the workers toil in factories and fields.

The tyrant surveys the surfs as they plough.

Conspiring eyes meet in vigilance and preparation.

Sisters take up arms and sisters revolt.

The touch of divine justice is realised and Greek statues bow in reverence.

New queens are crowned and savour a fleeting feeling of victory.

The tyrant cracks her whip and the crowns break.

The throned monarch sits while the workers toil in factories and fields.

Sisters take up arms and sisters revolt.

The touch of divine justice is realised and Greek statues bow in reverence

New queens are crowned and savour a fleeting feeling of victory.

The cycle continues and the wheel turns again and again.

Sisters toil, sisters conspire, sisters take up arms.

Devine justice reigns,  the gods bow and new queens are crowned.

The tyrant cracks the whips. Broken crowns.

The throned monarch sits while the workers toil in factories and fields.

 

The Dublin Theatre of the Deaf performed excerpts from Talk Real Fine, Just Like A Lady, created in collaboration with Amanda Coogan, as part of the 2017 Dublin Live Art Festival, curated by Niamh Murphy and Francis Fay. Photos by Jack Beglin and Fiona Killeen (www.blueprintphotography.ie).

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