How often do we realise that the body starts with the mouth? Speech aside, the mouth is the centre of our communicative and expressive abilities. When we laugh, we eat, we kiss, when we even sing, the mouth is there. It stretches in anger, contracts in pleasure, gapes in awe. The mouth – a hole, a cavity, a door into one’s personality – explains why theatre so often returns to it to explore its immense potentialities. Sofia Mavragani’s Afterwords places the mouth at the epicentre of attention; it could be called a ‘vocal dance’.
Placed front stage, four exquisite performers (Chara Kotsali, Giorgos Kotsifakis, Ioanna Paraskevopoulou, Christos Strinopoulos) start singing. An ordinary beginning, but if you remove the bodies and focus on the mouth, a scandalous and queer image appears: like in puppetry, the mouths become a vehicle to ignite the funny and the unfamiliar. Black lights and bright orange lipstick make the mouths phosphorescent, a bit like the Beckettian ‘Not I’ but without the existential angst. The performers, a choir of bodies, try to achieve with their voices what often in dance seems achievable only with the body: versatility in space that moulds the relations between the dancers and creates a palpable sense of rhythm.
This ‘vocal choreography’ lets us see the way bodies relate and exist as genuinely polyrhythmic: whether jumping or falling, interwoven or standing alone, they constantly confirm relations in time as purely rhythmical, not plainly linear. However, the voice-based tasks don’t really form a composition. They are more like shuffled tunes, sometimes sharp and demanding, other times blurry and intimate – like the moment when the four form two couples and sing into each other’s mouths, unexpectedly turning the body into a cavity, an echoing instrument, or even better an organ whose interior is rarely approached in dance. Yet this idea of ‘voicing’ the body is not explored to its limits. It doesn’t really allow you to see what’s ‘afterwords’ but rather expresses what has been there the whole time: the body as multiple.