Review: Echo Beach at the BikeShed

Exeter Express and Echo online (21 October 2014)

Hannah Sullivan’s one-woman dance performance promised a captivating exploration of life through movement – and that’s just about what it delivered.

Previously performed in Manchester, Bristol, Falmouth and London, Echo Beach puts individuals in the limelight through their unique ways of moving, collected and perfected by Hannah since 1999.

As the audience shuffled into seats in the Bike Shed’s intimate auditorium, Hannah was already on stage, tapping her foot to Green Onions and seemingly engrossed in the feelings the music produced. And this concept continued into the performance – yes, Echo Beach is a story of movement, but more than that it is a story of memories, and the people captured in their movements.

The dancing itself was striking – truly throwing herself into her re-enactments of other people’s moves, Hannah turned the gangly and comical into something beautiful. Her dancing managed to seem both deliciously unstructured and precisely timed, meaning the sequences flowed immaculately.

Even so, the opening left me worried that the show was going to be a medley of movements without explanation. And these wordless sequences – hilarious and admirably devoid of inhibitions as they were – sometimes went on long enough for the enchantment to fade slightly.

The performance seemed to work best when we were given context – knowing that we were seeing Hannah’s parents dance in the living room made this dance more engaging. The key to Hannah’s dancing was that it represented not distant, abstract concepts, but people: real, tangible people that Hannah had loved, captured and brought to life – so it was perhaps natural that we appreciated the dancing more when we knew who it was conveying.

The show’s nostalgic aspect was difficult to adjust to – having enjoyed Hannah’s comical, light-hearted imitations, it was uncomfortable when a previously hilarious sequence turned cold. Hannah’s pulling her hands further apart to introduce us to the idea of her parents’ separation was gut-wrenching – but we were rewarded with a greater understanding of the story, which made it all the more captivating.

There were definitely moments of awkwardness, perhaps unavoidable in such an intimate setting – some silences lingered for too long, and introducing scenes through writing on a blackboard created long gaps which sometimes broke the show’s momentum.

Nonetheless, Hannah’s brief yet passionate performance managed to evoke giggles and compassion in just about equal measures. Her incredibly potent facial expressions, switching effortlessly between childlike naivety and fleeting grinning glances when she knew her dancing had shifted to new levels of hilarity, never lost that unaffected need to get her story across – not quite a comedy and not quite a tragedy, but life.

>>View original Express and Echo review>>

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