Photo © Gilles Aguilar. Courtesy of Yoann Bourgeois CCN2 online

Funny things dreams – often funny funny, but always funny peculiar. They are frequently a source of amazement, inspiration or even fear. The exploration of dreams and the subconscious were almost the raison d’être for the Surrealists. If they couldn’t remember their dreams, or needed to create one, they would cinema hop – going into cinemas at random, watching a small portion of the unknown film, then moving onto the next cinema and doing the same. It was as near as they could come to creating the haphazard and illogical sequences that they sought.

Remembering dreams can be a wondrous or troubling thing but many of us often have no recollection of them. Does forgetting them mean they never existed? Or are they always there, deep in the subconscious influencing or waking lives?

French choreographer Yoann Bourgeois, in this brand new work, premiered by Nederlands Dans Theater, wonders where the dreams he doesn’t remember go. He seeks to find the answer in an amazing warping of time and space in a piece that could equally be called I Wonder Where Gravity Goes When I Defy It.

The action takes place in the corner of a room – a four meter square platform bounded on two sides by plywood walls. In the middle is a metal frame table and two similar chairs. On the chairs sit a boy and a girl, they talk, but their conversation is barely audible. The boy takes one of the chairs and attaches it to the wall about two meters off the ground. He reaches up for the chair, he writhes on the floor and we suddenly see him projected on the other wall, but the image is turned ninety degrees so the chair appears to be on the floor. The boy’s wriggling becomes gravity defying as he appears to be attached to the wall by some unknown force. But that is only the beginning. The table and the other chair are attached to the wall. Walls move, folding backwards to form a slope, six other figures appear all dressed the same – boys in red polo shirts and black trousers, the girls in white patterned shirts and blue jeans and, amazingly, high healed street shoes – although there was some cross-dressing in the later stages. All sorts of gravity defying mayhem ensue with it sometime being difficult to tell the difference between up and down or left and right.

The combination of live action and the shifted certainty of the real-time projections raise questions of time and space – which is real, which is illusion; is there a difference, are they the same? This really is “the stuff as dreams are made on”.

This was the first time I have been in a theatre, or seen any live performance, in nine months and it well was worth the wait. Nederlands Dans Theater never let you down but this was something special. I sat there half the time with a big smile on my face, the other half with my mouth hanging open in amazement. This went beyond dreams, this was magic, almost literally.    Michael Hasted     8th December 2020