Jacksons Lane, London; 18th April 2017
The second show from Company Nuua is a poetic sideshow philosophy of beauty, life, and pain. There is dark. There is bright. There is flesh. There are hugs, and struggles (which, themselves, have a hug inextricably at their core), and there is humour in all shades of absurd and awkward. Taival’s cast of three show roles of control and submission, offering a perspective on sub-cultural fetish activity that reveals a loving, playful, and profound nature quite apart from sexuality.
The publicity material runs with the word ‘debasement’ all over it, but I wonder if there has been a stumble in semantics of the translation. What I see is a performance of freedom, and trust, up-ending the way such practices are usually portrayed publicly. Leather collars attach to retractable dog-leads and provide an unusual form of ground-based counterweighting, or a means to drag each other across the floor, spinning and sliding, allowing the performers to play with genuine crashes and sudden restraints. Slow finger movements flake scales of wax from the torso of Jouni Ihalainen, who sits on a wooden chair, half-caked in white candle-wax, while Coline Froidevaux emerges from the blackness behind to wipe sweat from his brow. Nahuel Desanto snatches chalk sacs from the air whilst his body pulls to the ground. The movement language is not delicate or graceful, but persistent, and real, lit with a sense of sci-fi drama by Teo Lanerva.
Clothes-pegs pin facial skin, dancing with the movements of speech as Ihalainen reminds us that love, art, and pain are all relative. Silence, an amplified stage, and Deep Purple all play their part in Petteri Rajanti’s sound design, creating sensory saturation or the focus to hear a chair creaking, a water bottle rehydrating, breath recalibrating. Flashes of light and noise highlight a growing intensity as Desanto’s feet paint patterns on the chalk-dusted floor, his white juggling clubs painting more temporary lines in space as they swing around his frame and each other. Froidevaux springs and slumps over the stage to pounding beats and squeaking soles as the weight of a black motorcycle helmet dictates where her body must land.
Taival speaks a sensual language, and I briefly wonder if there is some underlying parallel between the fetishised power-play on display and a circus artist’s fetish to perfect their skill. The direction from Pau Portabella foregrounds the pushing, the pulling, and the calm place between, rather than pinnacle moments of virtuosity. The title seems not to have a direct translation into English, but my favourite of the options gifted me by Google is ‘straying’. It seems fitting that, like all the other elements put under their Finnish performance art microscope, the labelling of Company Nuua’s second show is, itself, relative.