the pleasure of stepping off a horse when it’s moving at full speed
Courtney May Robertson
Courtney May Robertson is splayed out on a floor covered by an octagon where liquid, psychedelic projections roll on, isolating her in a geometric bubble. She recites a stream of daily affirmations, more dysfunctional than aspirational, her voice rough and warped by a microphone.
When she rises, her gestures are sharp, surgical. She wrestles for control as images of the intricate workings of the universe flash beneath her feet. The music is loud, glitchy, stumbling to keep up with the rhythm of her frenetic thoughts and movements. It’s not long before the brave front she puts on cracks, too. In a world of unpredictability, what does it mean to stay sane? Are we not making ourselves crazy with our futile quest for order?
In this boxing ring, Robertson is fighting herself. We root for her all the way through, hoping she’ll manage to come out whole.
Speaking into a microphone at the start of a solo that’s as short as its name is long, Courtney May Robertson says a lot about her body whilst caressing the floor with it.
Mostly contained (strait-jacketed?) by an octagon projected onto the floor, that body struggles with the contradictions of a world that expects us to be ourselves but only as much as it allows. Sporting football shorts, black t-shirt and electric blue hair, it shifts, skips and gestures while its heart beats out of its chest. There’s lots of rebel energy when she attacks her way through a rock ballet to a soundtrack of death metal and demonic screeches but it all feels a little one-dimensional.
Robertson tells us that her body is a vast ocean, more than the sum of its parts – it would be nice if she showed us more than just the anger and frustration.
Her physical frame may be constrained by an octagonal projection on the stage floor, but it’s hard to imagine anything, or anyone, holding Courtney May Robertson back. The Scotland-born, Netherlands-based dynamo exudes possibility in a show replete with opposites. The title is long, but the piece is short; the deep, distorted voice emanating from the speakers seems to bear no connection to the mouth pressed against the microphone; even the words are conflicting – ‘this body is vulnerable’, ‘this body is capable of causing harm’, ‘this body contains rage’, ‘this body is trained to obey’.
But that’s the whole point – as humans we’re a big bundle of contradictions, and Robertson’s brief exploration of how we’d like to behave versus how society expects us to only scratches the surface. Fast-paced projections are interlaced with even faster-paced movement that leaves us longing for more, both on this fascinating topic and from this powerful performer.