30 Cecil Street – Pulse Fringe Festival

Are buildings purely bricks and mortar or do they contain remnants of memories within their walls? Walk through any neglected or derelict building and you can often imagine past events that took place within those crumbling structures.

In 2009 dancer Dan Canham visited a dilapidated theatre in Limerick. He made a film interviewing those with memories of the now redundant theatre. The soundtrack from that film now forms the soundtrack to his new work 30 Cecil Street.

As a reel to reel tape recorder begins to play Dan begins to mark out the floor plan of the theatre with masking tape. Slow and deliberate, the ground plan is created with almost reverent procession.

As voices begin to recount fragments of memory, movement is introduced and the building gets explored. As anyone who has ever looked behind the bright lights, the glamour of theatre is often little more than illusion and Limerick is no exception. A voice explains that the damp was so bad that ‘if you rubbed your hands on the walls you could wash them’.

Canham’s reaction to this vocal backdrop is initially barely perceptible. Small movements, controlled and precise. As the theatricality of the building’s history grows, the movement becomes larger scale but it remains focused on hands and arms rather than full scale ‘dance’.

Voices give way to recordings of echoing footsteps and snatches of theatrical musical genres and it is perhaps this section that is most effective; Canham’s steps reinforcing the ghostly recorded footsteps.

Sadly, although moments such of these do conjure up images of the ghosts of the past, overall the piece never really engages. Without any emotional connection to the building in question it is difficult to really engage with the memories being shared. The opening scene laying out the ground plan saps interest and while Canham is undoubtedly a talented performer with great movement skills, the introspective and small scale movement fails to travel well to the back of even this small auditorium.

Perhaps if either the original film, or even just still images of the building were projected during the performance we would have more connection with the emotions being expressed but as it stands 30 Cecil Street seems oddly distant and clinical.

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