TRANSVERSE ORIENTATION | London, Sadler’s Wells

Transverse Orientation is a tour of the subconscious mind, populated by creatures of myth, mundanity and nightmare. Made hyperreal by the magnified sounds of each footstep, totemic figures perform inscrutable rites. Minotaurs; a merman; suited slenderman figures which move like moths, ungainly and unsettlingly comical – the cast transforms constantly, always familiar and strange at once.

Suits and ties are stripped and reapplied onstage, dancers often embracing the absurdity of performing with trousers around their ankles and high socks on bare legs. The struggle between an Eden-like state of nature and the constrictions of civilisation – id versus ego – is a constant theme.

Although nudity is near-constant, overt sexuality is rare. Instead, the bodies in Transverse Orientation have the milky perfection of classical sculpture; as unblemished and sexless as anything one might ogle at the V&A. Yet this perfection is undermined as performers swap limbs, manipulating light and dark to construct themselves into monstrous, distorted figures, evocative of the onlookers at the base of Bacon’s crucifixions.

Light is central, a key participant in the trickery and transcendence of the work. The simple set and costuming is transformed by light and shadow, silhouette and perspective. In one striking scene, water slowly poured onto a black plastic sheet is spotlit, creating a nebula of light on the wall behind. The shifting web of reflected light evokes delicate, towering wings; a neural network; a universe.

Transverse Orientation is transfixing: just as unnerving, absurd and beautiful as the unconscious mind itself.

Playing 21 – 23 October 2021 at Sadler’s Wells Theatre.

The Prickle - About transp