There is a foreboding intensity that fills the stage. A young girl in a white communion dress is confronted by a guild of onlookers who are masked in black and led by an ominous ram-headed figure playing haunting sounds from his concertina. It may sound like the sequel to Rosemary’s Baby but it is, in fact, the beginning of this enigmatic and deeply arresting production.
Olivier Award-nominated MÁM, by Irish choreographer Michael Keegan-Dolan, returns to Sadler’s Wells Theatre this October. To mark this, Sadler’s Wells is screening the critically acclaimed film The Dance, by Pat Collins, which documents the creative process behind the show and is available on Sadler’s Wells Digital stage until 3rd November.
International dancers from Keegan-Dolan’s Teaċ Daṁsa company present a vivid performance accompanied by live music from contemporary music collective Stargaze and Irish traditional concertina player Cormac Begley. Dressed in formal attire, the performers look as though gathered for an occasion. There are moments akin to a wedding, depicting joy and celebration, that migrate into longing sadness as if at a wake. Though abstract in form the narrative is absorbing and immediately relatable. It takes us on a journey of joy, bewilderment, loss and hope, drawing us into the precision of every move.
This show is an incredible feat. A spectacular production created from scratch, taking inspiration from the rich Irish landscape and the firmly rooted communities within it. In The Dance Keegan-Dolan encourages an abandonment of strict, conventional form, allowing the dancers to respond organically, as though dancing alone without an audience. The rehearsals look disjointed, messy, incoherent and yet utterly captivating. The result is a vibrant, visually provocative, intricately performed show, exploring the everyday ebb and flow of human connection and illuminating it in an extraordinary glow.
The Irish word MÁM has multiple meanings. A yoke, a mountain pass, a handful, an obligation, function or duty. Keegan-Dolan states that he ‘was inspired by the poetry of the word’s multiple meanings’ and that ‘the production speaks to life’s nuances and contrasts, and how polarities can, on occasion, come together to find resolution.’ MÁM certainly achieves this. It captures the subtleties of human interactions and portrays an authentic spectrum of emotions through a cascade of music, movement and imagery that conjures the culture of Ireland and its unapologetic landscape.
The Olivier nomination is very well deserved. MÁM is a refreshing and spell binding production from beginning to end.
Choreography by: Michael Keegan-Dolan
Produced by: Teaċ Daṁsa
Music by: Stargaze and Irish traditional concertina player Cormac Begley
MÁM plays at the Sadler’s Wells Theatre until 7 October. Further information can be found here.