Oona Doherty: Hard To Be Soft. 18.08.2019, HAU 1 – Festival Tanz im August, Berlin.
A piece that seeks to heal the wounds of the collective body of Belfast has a steep mountain of expectations to climb. The stage is a cage the height of the proscenium, which seems to equally be a good measure for the heightened emotionality that is evoked by the full-frontal cinematic music: charged violins and intense sostenuto were upheld for the entire duration of the piece, without a single minute of respite to arrange one’s own feelings on one’s own terms.
Despite the powerful opening solo which effortlessly transits from verbatim speech and facial expressions to a series of fluent drops and rises, despite the successfully staged irrelevance of gender in white baggy trousers, shirt and gold chain, facilitating the shifts from male to female personas, despite the – endearingly awkward, yet energetic – teenage girl army marching up and down in their finest garments of defiance and the final brotherly hug in all its detailed composition, the phantom of the literal haunts every single scene, as if to ensure that no-one misses out on the displayed authenticity.
It is clear that the grime, sadness and poetry of the city serves as a bloodline to the dramaturgy, but one cannot help but wonder why we, the spectators, need to be force-fed a city psyche which is already so expertly transported by the choreographer’s own body, limbs, face, presence…