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About the Change

Fleur Darkin


May 2007
London, The Place

© Jeffery Taylor
Former dancer, Dance Critic and an Arts feature writer for the Sunday Express. Pub 06 05 2007

© Fleur Darkin

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Spring Loaded at Eustonís The Place was launched in the Eighties as a show case for British-based modern dance makers. Matthew Bourne, Wayne McGregor and Russell Maliphant, among many others, muscled their way to the top via this innovative move by one of our leading contemporary dance institutions. Halfway through this yearís season saw Fleur Darkinís presentation of Augustine, based on a search for fundamentals of mental illness. If not the most original and creative work choreographically, Darkin earns huge credit as an artist with a healthy desire to talk to an audience.

She also takes the trouble to do what she says in her programme notes. We actually see in front of us the results of her obsessive gazing at 1894 photographs of fifteen-year-old Augustine, a deranged patient of the notorious Dr Charcot of Parisís La Salpetriere Hospital. Hysteria and schizophrenia are defining labels, says Darkin, but dance can set you free.

Sarah Brightman look-a-like, Alison Jaques, opens as hysterical Augustine, shuddering in a tin tray with drab overall and puce hair. Cellist Sarah Moody orchestrates the amplified gasps into melodic rhythms as the stage fills with the Doctorís patients. Marek Zawalski, a powerful, driven stage presence, is obsessed with violin cases and the meaning of life. A curly haired youth flails in featureless writhings, perhaps unable to cope with a cosmic rush of energy, while two blond females flirt, scream and despair. Doctors display and measure the inmateís symptoms and Jaques as Augustine and Zawalski as Charcot get to the heart of the matter in a brutal, loving but ultimately sterile duet.

Fleur Darkin Ensemble
© Fleur Darkin

Darkin brilliantly succeeds in capturing the essence through movement of an extreme of human behaviour, though she shrinks from the ultimate misery with a collective jolly that feels like a cop out. The Darkin Ensemble tours two more weeks, see what you think.

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