Conversation Piece

Conversation Piece

Tramway, Glasgow

Mary Brennan

THE initial conversation - a light-hearted, chummy exchange between three dancers - had been flagged up as unscripted, spur of the moment.

The two men and one woman joked about skin rashes, body hair, celebrity gossip and Gwyneth Paltrow's blog - the stuff of inconsequential chit-chat. But their eight minute conversation is being recorded live on iPhones, and when the phones are passed over to three actors, the words become a script they have to deliver. This is when Australian choreographer/director Lucy Guerin begins to prise open her can of worms, allowing all kinds of shrewd observations and chewy questions about how we communicate with others to squirm to the breezily entertaining surface.

In part, it's a foray into how taking words out of their original context - altering tone of voice, punctuation, emphasis - can be like a game of Chinese Whispers, with the misrepresentations running the gamut from the amusingly silly to the oddly menacing. But even as you're being led by the ears, the dancers - again, courtesy of their phones - have called up music to dance to, and your eye is invited to make sense of their body language.

Movement as an immediate form of communication is then put to the test when actors and dancers start to interact competitively, and a degree of face-to-face confrontation flares with a tension beyond any available phone app.

Connecting via mobile technology, it seems, isn't the whole story when it comes to communicating and Guerin's Conversation Piece, brilliantly performed by a quick-witted, nimble sextet, is a wry reflection on how these phones allow us to keep other human beings at arms length. A wickedly clever start to Tramway's HOT season.