Caitlin - Dance Review

“He was a famous poet…I was going to be a professional dancer. I was going to be a very professional dancer.” -the prosaic rhetoric of ‘Caitlin’, wife of Dylan Thomas in this dance interpretation by Light, Ladd and Emberton. One might assume she has developed a hatred for words, most specifically her husband’s words. There is none of the lyrical beauty of Thomas’ poetry -this is Caitlin’s story, told through the poetry of her body.

Caitlin is the forgotten wife of a talented and celebrated man. Although talented in her own right, hers is a life lived in the shadows. It’s a tale as old as time and painfully familiar to many women. The story follows Caitlin’s experience in group therapy as she reflects upon her relationship to Dylan Thomas, her post-natal depression and addiction to drink. The dynamic aspect of this production is that we the audience, willingly or unwillingly, form the AA group circle around which the performance takes place.

Light, Ladd and Emberton interpret Caitlin as a powerful, passionate and embittered woman. The two-handed performance is played out with great physicality. It is raw, visceral and at times, downright vulgar. Grungy sounds, ear- splitting white noise, frenetic movement and the most creative use of the folding chair I have ever seen. If you thought you had given up your evening for a bunch of pissheads, you could have been right. But there is much more happening in this intensely charged psychological space. The Caitlin-Dylan relationship is volatile to say the least. Beset with the challenges of adulteries, mental illness and the strain of family life, Caitlin is often alone as her husband becomes increasingly famous in New York. The angry Caitlin reduces her husband to a miserable, drivelling nothingness. He rests his head listlessly on her lap, crawls about the floor like a baby and buries her with much hated scripts that she stuffs back in his mouth. Dylan Thomas is altogether silenced. His attempts to engage an audience amount to the futility of sucking air.

Caitlin carries out her maternal duties with regimented coldness. At times I wanted her to be more ‘maternal’ and dare I say ‘feminine’. And then I had to question my own ideas about what ‘feminine’ actually is. We have media-fed ideas about femininity don’t we. Who defines femininity anyway? Sometimes, I don’t think it is women. Caitlin shows us another take on gender and it’s refreshing. Aspects of this production were deeply cathartic for me. I know what it’s like to lose your life to motherhood. Perhaps I’m not brave enough to slam chairs around like Caitlin, but I’m certainly glad that she did. There is a frenzied energy about this production that is utterly gripping. I look forward to seeing more from this first class dance duo.

(c) Sarah Dosomah 2014

By Light, Ladd and Emberton, Chapter, Cardiff October 2014

Directed by Deborah Light
Devised with and performed by Eddie Ladd and Gwyn Emberton
Score by Thighpaulsandra
Sound by Sion Orgon
Costume by Neil Davies
Images by Warren Orchard
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