Just three weeks’ prior to this performance, in the same space, I saw Tony Adigun’s Fagin’s Twist, an alternative version of the famous tale of young Oliver, performed in a mix of spoken text and hip-hop dance. While the performance was, in all regards, a good one, I found myself missing the remarkable central performance by the young woman portraying Oliver Twist when that show had premiered, two years previously. I found myself wondering what had happened to Jemima Brown and – as if by magic – she turned up as the solo performer in Tom Dale’s I Infinite, in the same theatre, just a few weeks’ later.
It was the same theatre but not exactly the same stage. The main unique selling point of Dale’s new work is that it takes place within a white cube; entered via a small doorway. The effect is to create a sort of microclimate within the enclosed space dominated by hazy clouds and strange digital effects.
Audience members – restricted to 50 by the needs of the space – are required to leave coats, shoes and bags behind (The Place bar becoming a makeshift cloakroom) and each dons the kind of simple gown commonly used in barber shops (well, at least, they were many years ago when I was required to frequent them). I Infinite is essentially a controlled promenade performance. Audience members are encouraged to walk around for the first part of the work before being surreptitiously shepherded to one side for the finale. Promenade performances only work well when there is room for generally inhibited audience members to find some space and take their lead from the more adventurous: here, the provision of benches and the restriction of available space meant that many people found their place and stayed put.
In amongst the hoi polloi was one exceptional dancer. Brown wore an all-white outfit of a short-sleeved top – backless apart from a single strap – and what appeared to be fencing breeches and white socks. Initially standing still, until all the audience were inside the cubed tent, she then weaved her way amongst her audience in gentle, fluid, highly flexible movement. The particular environment of her confined world seemed to have its own gravitational laws, notably in the memorable final sequence when the combination of haze, lighting and digital effects made Brown appear to sink through the clouds, as if a disappearing angel.
Barrett Hodgson’s digital artistry created fascinating effects but some of the black and white projections of squares within squares and long lines stretching out like digital roots of an unseen tree became less affecting over time. The concept of representing a post-human digital world of Artificial Intelligence was strongly achieved but it also felt that each method of this representation was pursued for longer than was necessary. The numbing electronic soundscape seemed appropriate for this new world.
Dale and his collaborators have succeeded in creating a highly unusual ambience for dance; a place of quiet reflection and arresting imagery, which somehow loses the usual distractions in a conventional theatre setting, even with some people moving around during the performance, as intended. Often they appear as shadowy silhouettes in the haze adding to the mystery of this other world. The ending is quietly beautiful and Brown – on home territory as a graduate of London Contemporary Dance School – is as arresting a performer in this non-narrative, free-flowing performance as she had been in the full-on narrative of Fagin’s Twist. She is certainly a performer to keep (dance) tabs on.