Revolver is a dreamlike piece set in a landscape of loss, reconstruction and movement.
A solo performer enters to set the stage, then starts the show with a pause. Jazmin Chiodi's character seems to be an anachronism, maybe old, maybe young. Sitting down in her nightclothes in a battered armchair she half puts on a pair of overalls and gloves, a woman caught between two worlds, and falls into a reverie. The photograph behind her begins to move... there is a dramatic rural landscape, and an old couch in the foreground. In sepia monochrome, Chiodi brings other pieces of furniture into the frame. And more, and more, until within a few minutes there is a huge pile of furniture on screen, an undifferentiated mass of... baggage. Is this clutter the memory of a failure? Or the literal detritus of a life that for some reason fell away, somehow to be reconstructed from the few inadequate remaining pieces?
Images of memory and loss abound in this piece, and are always problematic. Happy memories are shockingly brief, tainted by the inevitable weight of other ugly artefacts of remembrance. These encumbrances she literally carries with her, a caravan of uniquely odd objects, the use of which is known only to her. She shuffles unsteadily forward, and all too easily backward under these bindles and bundles. Even the physical desire to dance, to move forward, to develop, is hamstrung by a desperate body which has been driven so far that it rebels at the tasks asked of it.
Chiodi spends a busy time onstage rearranging her memory-objects into a workable simulacrum of what might be a less-than-satisfactory shadowplay of the past. Or is she rearranging herself, composing the elements of her own personality into a perfect response? It echoes what is happening in the film behind her, so we must conclude that this has happened - maybe many times – before. She tests the landscape again and again, rehearsing an idealised routine, tweaking objects to fit the picture. Her dance at times here could be a joyful balletic caper, if she could only get the set and props right. She plays so effectively with this topography that eventually she can even repopulate it with people - and we are allowed to see some very poignant images of the edges of her loss. A brief moment of unrestrained happy theatrical performance for her vanished adoring audience is followed by anguished helpless frustration. Words only come to her in this carefully built imaginary theatre, as she sings wholeherartedly to what to us is merely a lampstand suspended from the grid. But every time she returns her attention to the jigsaw of objects she is delicately constructing around her, words fail. She can only helplessly groan and whimper when she sees the impoverished reality surrounding her, the lives and characters of her former life only to be dimly seen somehow in the pathetic collection.
And then the film ends, the screen a choked mess of furniture. Is this what she is about to build in front of us? Are we watching another rock being pushed up another hill? When the failure of her attempt to recreate the past (or perhaps herself) breaks her reverie, she is compelled to make a decision. She begins to pile all her chattels into another messy ziggurat. She drags a long winding-sheet out with her, and slowly wraps the furniture in it, delaying at every moment as precious objects disappear under the fabric. And yet half way through, half way up the stack of her unwitting troubles, she stops. Is she finally beaten? She takes off her wig and droops in exhaustion. She takes off her overalls and shoes, back again in her nightdress, as she entered, bereft of comfort but also, maybe, illusion. She has one last exquisite, nostalgic duet with the slowly swinging lampstand, and leaves the stage, abandoning everything; finally perhaps unburdened.
This is a gentle and affecting dance of loss, coping mechanisms and hope shot through with an edge of realism. We are not spoonfed emotional signifiers, although when the emotional punches do come they are unexpected and effective. Chiodi's performance is eloquent and enjoyably restrained - her accomplished flourishes of physicality are consistently mediated by the veil of her character's semi-consciousness, or exhaustion, or delusion. Where circumstance has led her to cyclical hopelessness, the body finds the logic of escape, a proclamation of optimism at the end of a subtly dark piece of work.
Bryan for DRAFF
Revolver by Iseli-Chiodi is presented at Project Arts Centre until the 14th January 2017. Image:
Posted: 14th January 2017