review of a separation

Any concerns of internal conversations I might have had with Diabolic though were laid aside immediately by Colin, Simon and I’s A Separation, the strongest piece of the evening by some way and one of the most vivid pieces of theatre I’ve seen for some months. It’s the first piece we see in the theatre itself and forms its own section (The Other). After it, we have an interval. This is smart curating from Recacha, as the intensity of the piece means that nothing can really follow on from it directly. I’m reluctant to describe what happens because I hope that it goes on and has a further life and that lots of people get a chance to see it.

It begins with Simon Ellis walking on stage and looking straight at the audience. Ellis looks like an earnest vicar or a school teacher and has soft, gentle Kiwi accent. I’m not going to repeat what he says to us here. Just imagine what’s the worst thing a white man can say to an audience… He then plays around with our discomfort, makes us accept his presence there, plays with our passivity. What are we accepting? Is this acceptable? Is it ironic? Colin Poole is the other half of the company. He’s black. Does this make it okay for Ellis to use the language he does, to say the things he does, to do the things he does? The piece teases us with the escape routes: he’s dancing to black music, the other dancer’s black, he made this too, etc. Poole’s immobility throughout though acts as a barrier to this. It crosses a line and makes confront something horrific. Again, I won’t give away why I didn’t applaud at the end. I have questions around whether or not it was right for Ellis to ask for applause. If it crosses the line, if it goes too far, then it should do because it’s only by going too far that we know what the limits are.

– William Drew