Double Goer — A Response

We’re queuing to head into Q Loft when I notice haze escaping at the edges of the doors. Soft, steady plumes curling overhead like a secret. I point them out to my friend: oh, god, wow, yeah. It piques my curiosity as we wait—there’s always the question of mise-en-scène, of course, but if these are only the most diffuse edges of the world we’re about to discover, I’m intrigued by what else Double Goer’s season in Loft will hold.

The result doesn’t disappoint. There’s haze, yes: a thick cloak of it, over a cornucopia of paintings and sculptures produced by the choreographer of the work, Sarah Foster-Sproull. Clutches of ceramics, varying in size and grouped like toadstools; hands, flowers, amorphous figurines, heads and forms on plinths, two creatures suspended, swinging—all placed around the outside of a performance space demarcated by a circle of light panels, like an altar or a fairy ring. Behind this, Sproull’s immense triptych, each panel made of four smaller quarters. Nude female figures with distorted bodies interwoven, fingers and toes pointed, proportions thrown to the wind like an expansion of Matisse’s ‘Dance (I)’, their hair floating as though in water. It’s an intricate, abundant set, distinct and full of life. I’ve seen a lot of shows in the Loft, and nothing has ever looked remotely like this one.

The space comes to life caught by the lighting design (the work of Andrew Foster, operated by Bekky Boyce); it whirls through cool tones and warm washes, and at one stage throws all use of orange in Foster-Sproull’s paintings and sculptures into such breathtaking relief that those strokes are almost all you can see. The choice to integrate these lighting panels into the set design, as aforementioned, creates both an immersive visual experience and transforms the physical units into barriers the performers must overcome. To exit the circle—in some ways, the confines, and/or the domain of exposure—the decision is made to break it. The boundary is always acknowledged, and similarly contentious.

“There has been so much intention, and there is, as a result, so much an audience member wants to take in.”

Foster also handles the music, ranging from drone almost to evoking school bells, shifting as the sections of the work do. It’s atmospheric work, in-keeping with the rest of the production. There is, above all, a real sense of cohesion to Double Goer: that time developing the work in Edinburgh, as well as its subsequent Fringe Festival premiere and the Aotearoa premiere at Nelson Arts Festival last year, has paid off. Even where the work stretches—two moments spring to mind: a sequence with a skin-tight skeletal mask and the wonderful finale, a go-big moment wherein costuming reaches its zenith—it all sits within the realm that Foster-Sproull and her collaborators have created. There has been so much intention, and there is, as a result, so much an audience member wants to take in. (Anyone else feel like their art historical grasp of hand gesture symbolism was coming up short?)

“Russell and Philpott are enthralling. They carry the world of the work, its stirring choreographic language as well as its visual one, absolutely.”

Of course, it’s impossible to write about Double Goer without acknowledgement of the doppelgängers themselves, Foster-Sproull’s collaborators, Tamsyn Russell and Rose Philpott. These two are brilliant. Drawn in a dynamic that traverses care, competition, control; devotion and domination; always intimate, always intense, and ultimately reaching transcendence, the pair match each other’s commitment every step of the way. Through each slide into a new aspect of feminine interrelation, through hilarious—accurate—encompassing screams (guttural, as all the most incisive performance-howls are), through utilisation of excessive hair clips, through throwing themselves (and each other) around the stage, melding into one body and then creating cavernous space between them, Russell and Philpott are enthralling. They carry the world of the work, its stirring choreographic language as well as its visual one, absolutely.

Double Goer delivers a unique, fully articulated hour of complex entwinement, toeing a skilful line between dance show and art installation and serving to elevate both. This is a testament to the precision of the work by every member of the company: Foster-Sproull, Russell, Philpott, Foster, Boyce, and, it must be said, Madison Cronin, continuing to prove herself as one of our most adroit dance producers. I leave Loft wishing I could have spent another hour working my way through the ceramics, to do their intricacy justice; and as I emerge from the haze of the theatre, I text two of the people with whom my own path has been most entwined: If either of you are free this weekend, you’ve got to get to Double Goer at Q. Should the work make its way to a theatre near you, I suggest you do the same.

Featured image via Q Theatre.


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