30 Cecil Street
The Limerick Athenaeum is abandoned, a decaying echo of its former life as theatre/gig space, political forum and bingo hall. 30 Cecil Street is its live evocation, bringing back the faded impressions of a community. On an old reel-to-reel tape player these recollections are our constant anchor to history, in what is a solo journey that seems to be a physical embodiment driven by the quality of memory. The stage becomes the footprint, rooms or spaces are marked for us to enter this imagined space but it is the delicacy of Dan Canham’s invitation that carries this piece. Like memory, Canham’s physicality can also bend and abstract grasping at ‘what was’, taking him through different states of existence. Yet he does not own these memories, nor is he solely an intervening agent; he is living and expanding his inhabitation.
Still House founder Dan Canham’s solo performance recaptures impressions of the Limerick Athenaeum, Ireland, a cultural institution that has served several purposes and was left to rot, with regard to both its physical form and social significance. Canham reconfigures the performance space by marking a blueprint-like topography on the black floor with white masking tape, then places a chair in what one can imagine might be a backstage area. Similarly, the audience bears witness to the backwaters of memory. Jerking and shunting dominate the movement which seems to overlay, rather than complement, the work’s conceptual dimension. A soundscape composed of the Limerick’s leaky roof, voices retelling their impressions of parties and concerts it hosted, and, vexingly, the echo of a dancer’s footwork on a creaking stage—which corresponds with the live action—best capture the imagination, and paired with Canham’s piercing gaze evoke a sense of historical schizophrenia.
The young British choreographer Dan Canham is a ghostbuster. His solo 30 Cecil Street (2011), presented last night, was the first piece for his own company Still House based in Bristol. The inspiration was a space, a concrete and empty building in Ireland that was a theatre, art college, bingo hall and cinema. The sounds of past times, the voices of dead people, the memories of nobody and the bodies of invisible tenants are the evocative landscape of his piece. Canham is a very beautiful and precise dancer; his performance is touching and his idea is clever but at the end you have the feeling that the piece is only a prologue, the seed of something bigger, more important, that he was unable to develop.