We exist beside each other, just out of reach. No matter how close we feel or look to be, we come no nearer to one another than the limits of our existence, limbs pushing against space. So struggles Homer’s classic hero, Odysseus, lost at sea 10 years before his homecoming footfall on Ithaca’s rocky shores, before his reunion embrace with wife and son.
Inspired in part by Odysseus’ travails, Berlin/Athens choreographer and performer Kat Válastur takes us on a similarly wind-battered, vigorous, and aching journey in Oh! Deep Sea – Corpus I. From the opening staccato gestures of the three women performers, accompanied only by sounds of breath, body and wind-like voice, the work is instantly watchable. Dressed in muslin-coloured tunics and geometric black and white bottoms, the performers, spaced diagonally across the white-water stage floor, evoke the syncopated work of a warship crew – kneeling in the hull, arms working at increasingly breakneck pace. Expect no arabesques or romanticism here.
Reminiscent of war horses, mermaids, moon-walkers, baseball players after a Hail Mary-pitch and perhaps even, at times, Narcissus, bent toward his shimmering reflection, the work seems to refer across ages. Ligia Manuela Lewis, Ana Laura Lozza and Válastur herself exert an impressive Spartan athleticism with a ball and socket vocabulary, in which the tempo adjustments, direction change, and timed repetition reveal compulsion, grief, and exaltation.
The sound design is spot-on: minimal and suggestive, varied by opprobrious bird-chatter, or the bullet-strafing whir of automatic aircraft. Palpably connected, the women’s prescribed onstage distance becomes ever more agonizing for the observers in the audience – Please, reach each other – evoking a relentless attempt to break through time, space and the obsessions that drive us apart.