Matthew Paluch sees Welcome to Campfire’s ‘The Pigeon & The Mouse’ that showed “abundant physical and emotional connection”
|The Pigeon & The Mouse
|Welcome to Campfire
|11 September 2023
Tony Bordonaro and Ingrid Kapteyn of Welcome to Campfire are clearly psychics. They devised the show The Pigeon & The Mouse in 2020, just before the world locked down. And the premise of the work is basically that: “Two lovers shelter together in an abandoned church when nuclear fallout from a civil war forces their city into quarantine”.
Both Bordonaro and Kapteyn have dance theatre backgrounds, having met when working on Punchdrunk’s Sleep No More back in 2013 in New York City, so there’s a clear pedigree and approach.
It’s interesting to see the performance at The Space – formerly a church – a venue on the Isle of Dogs I haven’t frequented before, but the unusually warm weather didn’t leave a positive, lasting impression. After 40 mins, the venue was a furnace, to the point it became somewhat difficult to engage, but we persevered as the performers absolutely deserved it.
The experience was an immersive one. We entered from the side of the theatre, and walked down a narrow, backstage corridor, which opened into the main space via the stage.
Once seated, it became apparent we were inside a bunker of sorts – hanging clothes, assorted electrical appliances, canned goods… Music interspersed with broken radio transmissions further enhanced the claustrophobic environment.
The evening began and concluded in the same way – a duo by the two cast members. Dressed only in nude briefs and knee pads, they delivered sustained, controlled partnering that showed competence and abundant physical and emotional connection.
If you saw the Netflix series The Last of Us, you’ll recognise the territory. They’re analysing humanity, and specifically relationship exploration within the most trying of circumstances.
In short, Bordonaro and Kapteyn have created original, emotive choreography that they execute to an incredibly high level, but the depth of text and spoken delivery of it are lacking.
The overall structure of the work also reads too disjointed to feel credible. Showing a period of time passing isn’t an easy thing to do. No one’s expecting linear narrative, but the current framework needs further threading analysis and development.
One such issue is the disconnection between the movement and text. Having them separate isn’t a problem, but it can also lead to the dance aspect feeling like an unrelated entity. Stronger moments see the text delivered through recorded narration as movement takes place simultaneously – this had the most poignancy for me. A tangible, and believable interrelatedness.
Two striking dance interludes to acknowledge are the first love duo, where the proximity to the cast allowed for an intimate reading of their intense eye contact and physical cohesion. Another is a duet that’s built around repetitive rolling back and forth – a simple yet powerful way to show groundhog developing into panic.
Bordonaro and Kapteyn are unquestionably the real deal, and their work has both merit and purpose, with Kapteyn offering an undeniably powerful presence. I look forward to their next visit to London, and hope for cooler climates and dramaturgical evolution.
Matthew Paluch was awarded a place at The Royal Ballet School in 1990 where he graduated in 1997. His first four years as a professional dancer were spent working with London City Ballet, Scottish Ballet, K-Ballet and English National Ballet, becoming a full-time member of ENB until leaving in 2006.
Matthew graduated from the Royal Academy of Dance, Professional Dancers’ Teaching Diploma in 2007, and was formerly on faculty at The Royal Ballet School. He completed his Masters in Ballet Studies at Roehampton University in 2011, has been a freelance writer since 2010 and currently works in the Law Sector.