A pristine white floor and wall mark the start of Vincent Dance Theatre’s Motherland at the Edinburgh Fringe. This white expanse is covered in dirt and blood by the end of the piece, as if a battle has taken place, which feels an apt metaphor for describing this dance-theatre piece. Exploring what it is to be a woman and a mother, their relationship to their bodies and societies ideas of who they should be, Motherland offers striking images of women vs men in this battle of the sexes.
A performer throws red liquid to symbolise blood against the back wall. She lifts her shirt and crouches in front of the stain as it steadily drips to the floor. A miscarriage or menstruation? A symbol of women nonetheless, Motherland is haunted by these women smeared with ‘blood’ that trickles down their thighs as they bend and flex their perfect legs and sway their perfect hips. Not all images are as obviously juxtaposed, there’s a great deal of subtly and conviction to the piece from director Charlotte Vincent. Perhaps one of the most long-term images is that of how the men seem to prosper in Motherland, whilst the women topple from their pedestals. There’s a richness to the way in which the choreography leads into the images, and the images are backed with the most wonderful music created by the performers on the stage. There’s a richness also to all of the finer details that Vincent pulls out in her work, leaving a striking power and lasting impression.
What starts with a sense of a community growing and building their land through the sowing of their seeds, soon turns to lustful sowing of a different seed. Like a see-saw that continually tips towards the extreme end of the metaphor, Motherland is punctuated with twisted images and toppling ideas. At times, Vincent uses the images she creates to mock and comment upon society’s obsession with perfection of body, such as having a male performer in high heels and a dress dancing provocatively. This subversion of beauty and sex-appeal distorts the mass media images that are plastered across billboards and our televisions.
Whilst there’s strong imagery Motherland, running at two hours it feels far too extended for what is needed to understand Vincent’s work. We get what she’s trying to say, and whilst there’s enjoyment to be found in the performers and images they create, the repetition is draining. With the music, which spans everything from group harmonica playing to electric guitars and piano playing, there’s a great sense of play and enjoyment; as it swells it makes you want to dance yourself. So whilst there’s some niggling issues with refinement and clarity of presentation, as a whole Motherland does well to offer a chaotic but controlled look at our obsession with female beauty, counterbalanced by the security and firm standing of male dominance. An excellent, if slightly long, presentation that would easily find itself a home in European houses or at the Barbican Theatre.
Originally published on A Younger Theatre.