Caro Meets Dance & Physical Interview

Sarah Dowling and Kath Duggan: Us Then

By | Published on Wednesday 18 November 2015


A fascinating sounding show from dance professionals Sarah Dowling and Kath Duggan comes to London this week, courtesy of Compass Commissions, a co-initiative from Trinity Laban and Greenwich Dance, which supports artists in creating new work. To find out more about the piece, I spoke to Sarah and Kath, ahead of the upcoming performances.

CM: Firstly, tell about the theme of the show. What story does it tell? Does it have a linear narrative?
SD+KD: The show is about two women shut off or shut in to a theatre – they have been there for as long as they can remember. It appears they cannot leave or do not want to. Their routines, their banter, their laughter, and their battles reveal the particularities of this long standing relationship. There is no linear narrative – but an enfolding of coping strategies.

CM: Your work combines theatrical realism with movement. Can you tell us a bit about how you fit these things together, and why you want to fit them together?
SD+KD: We both relish the detail of human behaviour and interactions – that’s what we mean by this work seeking theatrical realism. We are also both dancers and choreographers and so approach the creation of character, role and scene from a physical starting point.

CM: I’ve seen and heard about quite a lot of shows lately that appear to want to blur the boundaries between genres – is that your intention?
SD+KD: As well as working in dance both Kath and I have worked in film/theatre and opera. When we started to make this work we wanted to bring into play this range of experiences. We didn’t set out to make a particular genre of work.

CM: The show apparently takes inspiration from Waiting For Godot – what similarities are there? How is the play’s influence evidenced in your performance?
SD+KD: Beckett’s Godot was one of our shared starting points. Certain ideas in the text propelled our own creation of two women held or remaining in one space for an eternity and what could be revealed about their relationship through this scenario.

In our research into Godot we came across Beckett’s own analysis of his play which is “it’s all symbiosis” – two independent organisms which are mutually dependent. And alongside this an image from a documentary on Beckett where he retells walking the hills near his home in Dublin with his father, hand in hand, silent, each sunk in their own thoughts.

However, it’s important to say the work has now taken on a life of its own – and is not in any way a female version of Godot. Other influences on the piece include the film ‘Grey Gardens’, characters from our own family lives, a film called ‘Exterminating Angels’ – Godot now sits alongside these now.

CM: Tell us about your partnership – how did you meet and why did you want to work together?
SD+KD: We met nine years ago, performing together in Punchdrunk’s ‘Masque of the Red Death’.  We actually shared the same role in that show, and started a friendship which has seen us through numerous Punchdrunk productions. When I saw the advertisement for Laban and GDA’s compass commission I was reminded of my desire to work with Kath and applied.

CM: How does your creative relationship work? How did you go about putting this piece together?
SD+KD: Collaborating with another director has its advantages and disadvantages. The process in our case became much more thorough and rigorous with another creator testing the ideas as they emerged. The disadvantages are mostly to do with the amount of time it takes to come to a mutually agreed decision on every aspect of the work.

CM: Do you have further plans for ‘Us Then’?
SD+KD: We would like to tour ‘Us Then’, and find a future life for this piece of contemporary theatre.

‘Us Then’ is on at Trinity Laban from 19-20 Nov. See this page here for more info and to book.

LINKS: | |

Photo: Stephen Dobbie