CIRCLES, a review of the choreopoem

Normally, by the time I’ve got home (and often before the work is over) I know what I think about the performance art I’ve seen and most of what I’m going to write about. Not so for Sonny Nwachukwu’s Circles. Even though it made a profound impression on me,  I’ve been struggling with how to express it .

I would write about how the patterns and movements made by the performers interact, of how the bodies on stage revolve around each other, of the shared, tacit and explicit circles and how through watching it I was drawn into an implied co-dependency of the characters and circular nature of both trauma and life. But the words don’t do it justice.

I would write about the older-woman gravitas of Ada’s persona or how the poetry of words and motion show Obi’s thoughts and feelings. I would write of how he can see – and even undersand – his mother Ada’s problems and the trap their behaviours describe, but that they are still unable to escape. Or how successive layers/circles/generations and their interactions are represented and their correspondence to a series of what I felt were ever-decreasing circless. About how, as the artwork forwards, mirrored movements were suddenly broken to great effect. About the memories it evoked and the feelings it provoked. But that won’t make your heart ache, and it wouldn’t raise your hopes. Circles did both.

Circles is a choreopoem, a seamless blend of the spoken word, movement and music. The artist within me wants to express and review it in a way that reflects the continuous combination of evocative words, moves, feelings and ideas with which it reached me. But I’m only able to use words to get this through to you. Even the images I could have used in this post (and might still in a future tweak) are not mine and – because I want to show how I experienced the work (as opposed to the artists who made them) – don’t quite say what I would want.

What I can tell you is that it’s rare to be so caught up in a story at an early-stage Sharing. I’ve seen more Sharings than I can count. The number that have moved me both emotionally and intellectually can be counted on the fingers of  one hand. I can tell you that the words play with cultural memes whilst the overal production itself describes another. And it’s clear from this work that Sonny has a knack of finding the right people and integrating their strengths into his work in ways that strengthen the underlying story.

While experience tells that the only sure thing about how an artists’ work might develop from its first sharing is that it won’t be what I expect, I’m sure that Sonny’s message will become ever more powerful. Since this choreopoem deals with intergenerational trauma in black cultures, and since the first step to healing a trauma is its acknowledgement, that will be a good thing.