‘And All the Humans Will Be Eliminated’

Devised by the Company

State of Grace

Discovery Museum, Newcastle

From 29 March 2016 to 30 March 2016

Review by Peter Lathan

‘And All the Humans Will Be Eliminated’ is what director Benedict Ayrton describes as “a critical step” in the development of State of Grace, a new North East performance and dance theatre collective.

The company of six dancers (Peter Kerry-Forbes, Alicia Colette Meehan, Alys North, Charlie Dearnley, Lizzie J Klotz and Rosie Macari) and musician, digital media artist and technologist Sean Cotterill worked with Ayrton over a period of two weeks to create the piece, a process which has been jokingly described as “go into a dark room, lock it and emerge two weeks later a stone lighter, with a Vitamin C deficit and slightly mad!”

A group of damaged people—a Soldier, a Child, a Faded Star and Former Ingenue, an Accountant, an Addict and a Consumer—gather in a room (or perhaps "space" would be a better term) in which there are six chairs and six rubber animal heads, where they are watched over, and to an extent controlled by, the appropriately named Organ Grinder (Cotterill). There’s a feverish hunt for the “right” head and then each begins to play out his/her story, sometimes alone, sometimes collaborating with others, sometimes colliding and sometimes competing, as in, at one stage, a frantic game of musical chairs.

The style is quite eclectic: there’s ballroom, Scottish dancing, even a touch of ballet as well as the expected whole range of approaches to contemporary dance. There are periods of working in unison and times when each goes his/her own way. There are tiny pieces of text, wordless sounds—even screeches and screams—from the protagonists, and music played live (and not just by the Organ Grinder but by others too) which offers an almost ironic comment on the action.

A programme note says that the company members are “all artists in their own right, with their own distinctive creative journeys” and that comes across very clearly, most obviously, of course, when working solo but even in the unison passages one might stretch a metaphor too far and say they are speaking different dialects of the same movement language.

The result is a fascinating rollercoaster of a ride through these six stories, with feverish switches between self-justification and regret, which push us, the audience, hither and yon as our reactions to the characters are constantly in flux.

The programme asks, “Who will be saved—all, one, maybe none?” But that’s much too simplistic; it’s more complicated than that.