Roma

Anthony Lo-Giudice
Anthony Lo-Giudice Dance
Durham Cathedral

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Brendan Murphy, Bradley Creswick and James Southward Credit: Chris Davies
James Southward and Bradley Creswick Credit: Chris Davies
Molly Proctor, Caroline Rees and James Southward in rehearsal Credit: Chris Davies

Anthony Lo-Giudice is a well-established choreographer in the NE and beyond; his intimate duet L’uomo is frequently performed abroad and was last performed in Gothenburg this autumn.

Now he brings dance theatre work Roma to North East audiences and I caught up with the performance at Durham Cathedral. Roma is re-visioned from an earlier version made in 2010 and Anthony told me how he has employed very different creative styles and methodologies to dig deeper into emotions and memories, than he did in the previous version.

Anthony has a Sicilian father and North East mother, and this is important in understanding this intense, semi-biographical work. Performed in a side chapel of the Cathedral, it is a full-length, impassioned, complex and theatrical work, offering glimpses of a fraught family life, opening evocatively with the birthing of the son.

The cast, an ensemble of highly individual musicians and dancers, is led by Caroline Rees as the utterly, domineering mother. Brilliant violinist Bradley Creswick MBE is a more insubstantial father, Molly Proctor a heavily pregnant sister, Rosie Macari the younger sister and the boy / young man, is performed here by the magnetic James Southward. Brendan Murphy completes the ensemble playing a multitude of instruments, including one of my favourites, an array of wine glasses, as well as being Proctor’s abusive husband. I name every-one as they are all so important to completing this picture of a family, often torn apart by anger, bullying and pain.

Dance, music, spoken word and imagery are employed in often fleeting scenes, poignant solos and duets that includes a more humorous trio with Southward, Creswick and Murphy and a striking, angry encounter between Proctor and Murphy. This is all interspersed with family gatherings and a final riveting solo from Rees. The son is presented as something of a Jesus figure, a victim, a lost soul. Behind it all, you glimpse the longing for peace.

Lo-Giudice uses symbolism and props such as oranges, corn and macaroni freely to achieve ideas.

It is incredibly atmospheric, with minimal lighting by Mark Parry, mostly from the side, and much of the action stems from a bench, placed centrally upstage. The family assemble on this bench for poses, resembling old photos, and then glide seamlessly into new tableaux. The movement is expressionistic and inventive, with limbs sometimes entangled as family relationships are.

Roma is cinematic in ambition with really interesting and often melancholy music. I particularly liked Murphy’s rendering of the folk song "Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme" accompanying the three women dancing.

Some events feel resolved, and some sections could have been explored even further, like life itself!

This is a mature work and I suspect that the more it is performed the more interesting it will become; there is clearly room for characters to develop further.

The tour finishes at Dance City on December 9 but before then you can see Roma at a variety of theatres and non-theatre settings: Berwick Maltings November 19, York Minister November 25, Middlesbrough Town Hall December 1 and Queens Hall Hexham December 2.

Reviewer: Dora Frankel