10000 Gestures by Boris Charmatz
Mayfield, Manchester International Festival [14.07.17]
We’re invited into the eerily empty Mayfield depot. The sense of abandonment is very real as we await some sort of action beyond the brightening and dimming of the light strips eagerly positioned on thirteen pillars. One woman bursts into eye line and what follows is a bizarre but honest physical analysis of the human condition and its ever-evolving state.
Set in an evocative space, the orgy of compulsive movement that unfolds from the myriad of bodies is nothing short of mesmerising. Reactive and challenging, we are watching bodies being bodies. Each movement is nuanced and present and occurs within the uneven sandwiching of frantic action and unnerving stillness. This is much more than a spectacle in that it challenges us to decide whether we want to give meaning to each movement. And what’s more important is that we are free to react to that how ever we please – there isn’t a concrete or correct answer in this thoroughly peculiar pursuit.
Heavily rhythmic and rife with precision juxtaposed with indecision, 10000 Gestures isn’t meant to give us specific bits of information at specific points in time. Its purpose lies in proposing 10000 opportunities to its audience and welcoming us to choose, though not always freely, what we would like to devour and digest. But in placing us in uncomfortable and uncertain situations with little freedom over what occurs, Boris Charmatz has successfully replicated a typical state within our existence, in a unique yet unsettling environment. It’s probably not the average person’s cup of tea to have a bunch of half naked shouting people climbing on top of them, touching them or requesting that they perform specific actions, but this is an experience that doesn’t even have tea on its radar. At points, you are wondering ‘what the fuck’ is happening and why and, everything about that reaction is okay. This was never going to be a comfortable experience and I imagine that people who hoped for one probably wanted their money back. It was however the most original and absurd thing that I have seen in years and for that I wholeheartedly commend it.
The 10000 gestures offered to us are a display of punctuation for the human existence, that takes us on a journey of lust, elation, desire, insanity and pain. This was Fantasia for adults on a stagnated treadmill heading for a euphoric revolution. The aim here was not to lead us to a destination but give us an abundance of tools to reflect on what’s what and where’s where, without getting overly existential about it. A multitude of scenarios without a frame to stop and start in allowed space for a slightly disheveled audience to compose themselves among the chaos that was occurring both on and off ‘stage’.
Verdict: 10000 Gestures is a captivating, raw and challenging display of bodies being pushed to the brink of their abilities and existence being measured, dissected and reassembled before our eyes. It is exposing, both literally (a few knobs and bums are flashed about) and metaphorically of the fragility and vulnerability of our existence. But most importantly it welcomes us to reflect on our resilience and in that there is healing. Nice one, Boris!