FringeReview by Simon Jenner
Directed by Woman’s Move at the Rialto. Till June 15th though touring. Contact Rialto and producers for details.
It’s back. After its triumphal multiple award-winning progress in 2019 (not least the highest praise from Nicholas Collett of FringeReview at the Edinburgh Fringe) Swiss collective Woman’s Move return to the Rialto with The Sensemaker. It’s been performed over fifty times in several different languages, and different languages too is what we get here, confined to menus.
It’s everything in nothingness, a show slicing glitch-capitalism and totalitarianism with sexploitation; stripping people bare enough to be objects and automatons at once. And all those phone-queuings you’ve ever or will ever make.
There’s an old-fashioned telephone, a chair, a young woman, actor Elsa Couvreur. She’s ordered to stand uncomfortably in the centre of the room. If she strays for comfort she’s ordered back again. At first she’s waiting in a queuing system with different languages options – then there’s a kind of set: of songs Couvreur mimes perfectly, to the Beethoven Ode to Joy, Handel’s Messiah Allelujah, a set of variations on harpsichord also by Handel, and Swiss pop I can’t identify.
Then in English (each country will hear it in their own language) Couvreur’s told to obey increasingly bizarre functions, turning on quarters, getting down on all fours, stooping, gyrating – at one point it’s suggested the young woman is auditioning for sex or adult films. The most intrusive questions get asked. But it’s more universal. Finally she’s commanded to perform absurd gestures; each accompanied by a jolted ‘please-thankyou’ as if compliance isn’t in question.
There’s resets as the disembodied voice jumps back and the applicant’s out of the loop. The recorded voice is cleverly calibrated so you know the same digital word ‘four’ is being repeated robotically. This is punishing people for computerised mistakes, pre-echoing a digital dystopic world of commands that glitch out yet allow no recall.
To vary this too there’s moments of freedom. A glitch throws multiple commands Couvreur has no time to follow sequentially, but when the famous Pointer Sisters ‘I’m so excited’ arrives with its ‘I’m losing control and I think I like it’ in fact Couvreur performs all these to the music in rapid sequence, a comi-tragic moment of bizarre freedom repeating multiple moves lending a spurt of exhilaration. There’s a profound paradox, musical disinhibition and deep conditioning. And there’s a sense of people being ordered to dance on film in black and white. We’ve seen them. Woman’s Move know we have. Then there’s a blackout, as if somehow the character’s having too much fun.
Nudity’s heralded so there’s no spoiler in exploring what it means when Couvreur’s ordered to strip. What the character manages to do here beyond the robotic narrative she’s forced into, is slide out of obedience into brief vulnerable selfhood: stripping partly, ordered to fully, covering herself, ordered to stand in merciless exposure. And repeat earlier moves.
In itself it’s a purgatory of waiting or hell, a groundhogging rewind as the fulfilment of meaningless repetitive work-tasks; themselves figured as a dry-run for eternity. Who needs more torments? And what does exiting the way Couvreur does signify?
The most uncomfortable moment though is when Couvreur is allowed to put her clothes back on. Again that sliding moment of vulnerability, the private self no public should see: the way we adjust underwear to our naked bodies. It doesn’t say ‘look at me’ but ‘look at you’.
Couvreur’s performance is phenomenal in itself: both physically balletic (she looks to be a trained ballet dancer) and mine-perfect, with miniscule expressions occasionally allowed to flitter across her face, like a revelation of a god in the machine. Her eyes, ever alert for trouble, crinkle just once with humour, often with puzzlement, always on guard.
How row back from this, this mix of phone-queue for purchase repurposed as exploitative job application and techno-serfdom – or even techno-murder? Is Couvreur’s character traumatised, anonymised and robotically obedient, even liminally subversive? There’s a gesture suggesting residual life. But the metaphor holds: terminally exploitative practices, totalitarianism, being lined up naked with all its attendant horrors.
But it’s these forces appearing in their hideous nakedness that also raises this show to the highest level. There’s nominally a difference between the naked and the nude, but here it’s probed, questioned and collapsed. The question really should be, what’s really appeared naked to us? Not Couvreur perhaps. An astonishing, disturbing shapeshifting sliver of genius.
Broadway Baby by Richard Beck
★★★★ A remarkable piece of absurdist exposition in movement, mime and word
Beethoven’s Ode to Joy is anything but that when played ad nauseam on a loop while you are kept on hold by a robotic voice saying, “All our operators are currently busy. Please wait”.
The immediate appeal of The Sensemaker is that it taps into an immediately identifiable experience that everyone has had. Reassurances that my ‘request is being processed’ are of little comfort. “Where? When? By whom and for how long?” I cry. These are all questions that must be going through the mind of choreographer Elsa Couvreur as she moves and dances her way through the dehumanising wait.
Her situation does not improve. The voice on the end of the line makes increasingly personal and intimate requests of her that she must fulfil if she wants to advance further up the queue. Trapped in the system of clapping her hands in answer to tick-box questions she succumbs to jumping through ever more demanding hoops; trapped in the system; programmed to do as the voice suggests. The choice is to give in, accept that bureaucracy has the upper hand and comply or lose at the very least you place in the line and at worst find your request declined altogether.
Her frustrations, compliance and ultimate submission are demonstrated in tightly choreographed sequences that make use of interpretive gestures and repeated motifs in line with the broadcast messages. She becomes as robotic as the voice she hears, controlled by external powers, while retaining elegant lines of movement and at times comedic step patterns. It’s a remarkable piece of absurdist exposition in movement, mime and word.
The Sensemaker comes courtesy of Woman’s Move at the Rialto Theatre as part of the Brighton Fringe and is a tribute to the breadth of programming to be found there. It’s won awards at Fringes in Edinburgh, Gothenburg and Stockholm and is no doubt well-placed for further recognition as an outstanding piece of performance art.
“Залишайтесь, будь ласка, на лінії”: у Вінниці відбулася прем’єра швейцарської вистави “The Sensemaker”.
Вчора, 20 жовтня, у Вінниці в рамках “Air ГогольFest” відбулась прем’єра швейцарської вистави “The Sensemaker”. Постановка, яку організатори заявляли як хедлайнера театральної сцени, зібрала повну залу та зірвала бурхливі овації.
Надвечір другого дня цьогорічного “Air ГогольFest” у Вінниці мала відбутись українська прем’єра швейцарської вистави “The Sensemaker”, яка вже встигла зібрати декілька престижних нагород та отримала схвальні відгуки критиків. Зала великої театральної сцени почала швидко заповнюватись глядачами і навіть ті, хто довго блукав коридорами “Кристалу” в пошуках саме тієї зали, зрештою потрапляли куди треба.
Перед початком вистави організатори надали слово послу Швейцарії в Україні Клоду Вільду, який одразу вибачився за те, що не знає української мови. Це він промовив ламаною російською і одразу ж перейшов на англійську. Пан посол подякував організаторам фестивалю і наголосив на необхідності таких подій та міжнародного культурного співробітництва.
Дзвінок… дзвінок… дзвінок…
В залі вимикають світло і западає тиша. Перешіптування глядачів уривається різким телефонним дзвінком. Він дзвонить раз. Два. На сцені з’являється жінка, вона одягнена в синю блузку і темну спідницю. В руках тримає сумку.
– Всі наші оператори зайняті, – промовляє механічний голос автовідповідача. Вмикається монофонічна версія Симфонії № 9 Бетховена. В даному випадку це той вид музики, який мало кому подобається, адже означає очікування.
Одразу ж варто наголосити, що “The Sensemaker” це моновистава, тобто вистава одного актора або ж, у даному випадку, однієї акторки – Ельзи Куверр. З декорацій тут знадобився лише стілець і старий стаціонарний телефон.
Жінка сідає на стілець, ставить сумку на коліна і готується довго чекати. Весь її вигляд демонструє, що їй не зручно, вона розгублена. Механічний голос (який насправді є записом з Гугл-перекладача) каже жінці стати в центрі кімнати. Та замість прямого зв’язку з оператором стається збій і жінка на кілька хвилин стає провідником чи то пак, приймачем, який ловить уривки промовлених кимось в телефонних розмовах фраз.
Весь цей калейдоскоп фраз відтворює акторка. Сама вона не промовляє жодного слова, але це зрозуміло лише завдяки гучності й тому, що фрази лунають як жіночим, так і чоловічим голосом. З багатомовного багатоголосся можна виокремити, як якийсь шотландець зневажливо називає англійців словом “wankers”. Решта фраз залишаються загадками, адже звучать французькою, німецькою та іншими мовами і, навіть, мовою жестів.
“Чи повідомите Ви нам розмір Вашої нижньої білизни для рекламних цілей?”
Коли знову налаштовується зв’язок з механічним голосом і “всі оператори” виявляються знову зайнятими, багато глядачів одразу впізнають себе. Поки жінка на сцені злегка підтанцьовує під Бетховена, в голові зринають спогади про спроби добитись чогось від свого мобільного оператора. Всі ті рази, коли доводилось чекати незліченну кількість часу, поки на лінії з’явиться жива людина.
Але героїні вистави доводиться мати справу з механічним голосом. Він, нарешті, повідомляє, що для обробки запиту доведеться відповісти на декілька запитань. І тут знову виникає аналогія зі “спілкуванням” з автовідповідачем мобільного оператора (чи будь-яким іншим), адже жінці пропонують обрати мову спілкування та відповідати на запитання, плескаючи в долоні (альтернатива натисканню кнопок) певну кількість разів.
Глядачі не знають, який саме запит намагається подати жінка. Та це, власне, й не так важливо, адже серія запитань від механічного голосу, в будь-якому випадку, видається абсурдною.
“Чи маєте Ви хворобу, яка може спровокувати смерть?”
“Чи подорожували Ви країнами, де люди мають хвороби, які можуть спровокувати смерть?”
“Ви раніше брали участь у порнографічному фільмі чи будь-якому іншому матеріалі, призначеному для сексуального збудження дорослих?”
“Чи брали Ви коли-небудь участь в терористичних актах?”
“Ви ще не брали участі в нетерористичному акті досі?
Позитивні відповіді на запитання “Чи є у вас будь-які навички/ терпіння/ наполегливість/ мотивація/ енергія?” спричиняють подальний розвиток подій, адже механічний голос одразу наказує:
– Тепер покажіть нам повний Ваших навичок, мотивації та енергії, будь ласка, дякую.
“Зараз ми передаємо Ваш запит у відповідне управління. Будь ласка, зачекайте, дякуємо.”
Кожна наступна дія у виставі стає все більш абсурдною. Вимоги механічного голосу все зростають і зростають. При цьому він обіцяє, що “запит обробляється” і що “запит передають у відповідне управління”, але фактично жодного прогресу не помітно. Характерно, що жінка продовжує виконувати команди механічного голосу і навіть не думає зупинятись. Коли їй вже вкотре пропонують обрати мову спілкування, в неї вривається терпець і вона намагається одразу плеснути в долоні шість разів (для вибору української). Але система сприймає це по-своєму і обирає якусь іншу мову. Жінка швидко розкаюється і продовжує слухняно виконувати всі команди.
– Доброго дня. Ласкаво просимо номер 3654782. Для того, щоб виконати Ваш запит, ми зараз проведемо кілька фізичних оглядів. Будь ласка, залишайтесь в центрі кімнати, – каже голос.
Далі йде ціла серія команд на зразок “зробіть чверть повороту праворуч” або “поставте руки на п’яти і дивіться прямо вперед і не посміхайтеся”. Жінка дивується, злиться, губиться, але все виконує.
Голос на цьому не зупиняється.
– … зробіть хвилю своїм тілом три рази, потім відскакуйте назад чотири рази, потім вперед три рази, потім рухайтесь так, наче б’єтесь головою об стіну…, потім погладьте свій торс, потім щось стисніть, потім рухайте пальцями, потім покажіть художню інтерпретацію хвилі…, потім лижіть підлогу два рази…, – лунає довжелезна серія команд, яку аж ніяк неможливо запам’ятати.
Жінка виконує абсолютно всі рухи під енергійну музику і виходить щось на зразок танцю.
Зрештою, голос доводить її фактично до межі, кажучи, що для виконання запиту доведеться роздягнутись. Вона з усіх сил намагається цього уникнути, але варіантів їй залишають тільки два: або припинити дзвінок, або зняти одяг. Вона обирає друге і стоїть в центрі кімнати в самій лише нижній білизні засоромлена й перелякана.
А бездушний механічний голос все не зупиняється і знову змушує виконати цілу серію безглуздих рухів, які, ніби-то, необхідні для виконання запиту.
І це все?
Жінці дозволяють одягнутись і кажуть стати по центру кімнати. Виникає відчуття, що автовідповідач має необмежену владу над героїнею. І це відчуття підтверджується, коли вона намагається взутись, але лунає телефонний дзвінок. Вона біжить до телефону в одному черевику, але не встигає взяти слухавку. Хоче повернутись до стільця, але знову дзвінок. Варто жінці підійти до телефону, як дзвінок вривається.
Їй таки вдається перехитрувати машину і вчасно вхопити трубку, але на лінії стається збій.
– Головне меню. Щоб відповісти “так”, плескайте один. Час у Ваших руках. Щоб відповісти “ні”, плескайте два. Час у Ваших руках. Будь ласка, щоб підтвердити свій запит, дайте відповіді на наступні запитання, будь ласка, дякуємо, – промовляє голос, коли знову з’являється зв’язок.
– Я не робот, – промовляє голос.
– Добре. Я приймаю всі файли cookie.
– Добре. Я приймаю всі умови.
– Добре. Я приймаю політику конфіденційності.
– Добре. Я хочу підписатися на щоденну інформаційну розсилку і скористатися вигідними пропозиціями.
– Добре. Дякую. Ми Вам зателефонуємо. До побачення.
Поки жінка намагається зрозуміти, що щойно сталось знову лунає телефонний дзвінок.
– Доброго дня. Дякуємо за Ваш інтерес, ми отримали велику кількість заявок, – лунає механічний голос. – Наше рішення – це зовсім не відображення якості Вашої роботи. Ваше листування нас дійсно заохочує та відзначає і ми сподіваємось на подальшу співпрацю, тому ваш запит № 059844444318712 було схвалено. Вітаємо. До побачення.
Знову лунає Дев’ята симфонія Бетховена, а жінка стоїть з виглядом, який так і промовляє “І це все?”.
Цю виставу закордонні оглядачі називають “Чорним дзеркалом” (серіал – авт.) на сцені, “мрією і жахіттям”, “ідеальною метафорою нашого світу” та відзначають чудесну акторську гру Ельзи Куверр.
“The Sensemaker” зірвав бурхливі овації від глядачів. Всі аплодували стоячи впродовж декількох хвилин. Після чого розійшлись по наступних подіях фестивалю, роблячи (або ж не роблячи) свої власні висновки про побачене.
Review: The Sensemaker, ZOO Playground, Edinburgh Fringe
A Younger Theatre
At a time when the UK is experimenting with mass facial recognition technologies in the name of counter-terrorism, The Sensemaker is a poignant theatrical event. With anxieties around London becoming the capital of a potential surveillance state, along with fierce debates surrounding the violation of human rights, Elsa Couvreur’s concept is a clever one indeed.
Her character is not named, rather, she is numbered: 3654782. A one-woman show, The Sensemaker makes use of a disembodied robotic voice to help guide the narrative. It is an Orwellian dystopia. A warren where AI has ceased to exist as the brain-child of the human race, becoming parental figures instead. Perhaps ‘parent’ is too soft a word, though. The automated tone that blares from above feel dictatorial. Every sentence ends with “Please, Thank you,” a chilling attempt to simulate courtesy, while its demands grow steadily more humiliating.
The Sensemaker also toys with the increasing presence that tech plays in one’s daily life, flavours of Facebook and Cambridge Analytica Scandal oozing into being through a gathering of Couvreur’s physical and emotional data. Told mostly through a canny use of choreography and lip-synching, there are inventive changes of pace and highly unique flashes of content.
Forced into submission by an infernal dial tone and tracks of elevator music, Couvreur is consistently made to hold the line. Promises that her query is being registered and then redirected to the relevant department come with endless hoops to jump through. The hellfire builds inside of her, slowly. Its flames kindled by frustration. A sinister technical difficulty calls not only the limits of the human consciousness into question, but the disadvantages of AI too. That Couvreur is responsible for every creative facet of the production is awe-inspiring.
The inclusion of nudity doesn’t feel gratuitous either. It is wholly necessary in its depiction of shame, as well as its analysis of the over-sexualisation of the female body. Couvreur’s discomfort is our discomfort. Her anger is our anger. Like her sheer tights that ladder upon redressing, The Sensemaker is delicate. But, above all, it is daring and witty to boot.
A highly entertaining and provocative solo show that addresses our relationship with technology – and each other – in modern society. A barometer for our times.
I have been fortunate enough to see theatre of all styles and languages, in many different countries, but “The Sensemaker” is one of the deftest and most provocative pieces I’ve experienced in a while. Essentially this is a solo performance that addresses our relationship with technology – and increasingly its direct involvement in our lives – whether we like it or not. However, it has much wider resonances, both political and moral. As such it is a barometer for our times.
A bare stage, bar a table with an old fashioned dial telephone – and a chair – are all that performer/maker Elsa Couvreur has for company. We are in an isolated environment where a disembodied mechanical voice issues instructions in response to our protagonist’s unknown request. She has to perform increasingly bizarre tasks to have her wish fulfilled (whatever that is), by turns fragile and courageous, constantly waiting on hold (to “Ode To Joy” played on what seems like a Casio keyboard) for the next command.
Our performer is slight and slender, with bright eyes that are simultaneously curious and alert. They constantly search for the next cue – whether physical or vocal – and are puzzled when the answer is denied or obscure. However the audience is always aware that the performer has a degree of optimism and an acute awareness of her physicality.
The performance centres on brilliant and precise choreography, linked to the sparse text, which incidentally is in several languages. This is a piece that transcends the need for translation. The audience need to merely observe to understand that this is our future – and our past – being played out.
A staccato series of commands sees the woman fulfilling complex choreography commands only to be thwarted by what seems to be a power cut. The lights go out and the sound is silenced. In the darkness we hear her cry for help, only for the power to be restored, with her desperately trying to catch up with the beat. To our relief she does so, but this heartbreaking journey continues, with our accompanying assumption of guilt and responsibility .
To describe or reference more would do a disservice to the performance. Rest assured that this piece strips away all artifice, all dishonesty and presents the audience with a stark moral choice.
This wonderful piece, for me, references many things – the indifference of the Holocaust, the intolerance of modern society and ultimately the doom that we face if we don’t start communicating. It is deep and trenchant, but also wonderfully entertaining. It left me feeling deeply affected and pondering everything that I had seen and heard. I hope and trust that ultimately it will leave you feeling as optimistic as I do about the power of art as a force for change.
Published August 26, 2019 by Nicholas Collett
Review: The Sensemaker at Zoo Playground
Edinburgh Festivals Magazine
“Hello, all of our operators are currently busy, please wait” And as a jangly version of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy puts the caller on hold, that’s what Elsa Couvreur does. She passes the intervening time by lip-synching to the automated messages, adding in hand and arm gestures like some kind of impromptu semaphore.
Waiting, however, turns into something that’s insidiously Kafka-esque: when the disembodied voice starts giving Couvreur various tasks, she complies – even when the instructions veer away from clapping in response to questions and into more prurient, humiliating commands.
What started out as a whimsical, funny solo about interacting with faceless technologies morphs into a darkly troubling vision of a computerised bureaucracy where we are just numbers being crunched in the machines.
Review: The Sensemaker – Grace Hillyer
Battling with an automated voice on the phone, and nothing much else. That’s the set up and premise of The Sensemaker, and it’s a very impressive feat to hold an audience for an hour with the only real dialogue coming from a pre-recorded voice. But Elsa Couvreur gives everything to her performance in order to do so, and it’s enjoyable to watch.
Playing a character with no name (that we know of), she carries out ridiculous task after ridiculous task to get an answer to an unknown question, and the piece really does wait until the last second to give you any idea what it’s all for. Undoubtedly a stylistic choice, for me it didn’t quite have the impact intended. It just took too long to get there. Every attempt at humour, while indeed funny, was reliant on building to that moment with repeated motifs and as a viewer that posed problems. The structure of the piece became quite predictable, I found myself losing interest at times because I knew where the gag would come in. While dragging out the story worked for the first joke, it soon became tiresome.
However the piece redeemed itself when it took on a darker tone. Suddenly what had been funny before was now intrusive, wrong and distressing to watch. I could almost physically feel the violation experienced by the character, and Couvreur did a fantastic job of portraying that. It’s a shame this part only took up a small fraction of the piece right at the end – this was to me what was interesting and has potential to be expanded upon. The moments I remember most from the piece, other than an incredible explosion of a weird and wonderful dance, were all contained to the last 15 minutes or so. Still, the whole piece did make for an intriguing comment on technology within our society.
By the end of the play, I left feeling as though I had definitely seen one of the more interesting and unique pieces at the fringe. I just wish there had been more content within it.
Elsa Couvreur in The Sensemaker
Seeing Dance - David Mead
The set is bare. A chair, a rotary dial telephone on a desk. That’s it. It’s a waiting room of sorts. In walks the smartly dressed Elsa Couvreur. Although it’s never explicitly stated, we sense she’s arrived for a job interview. After she settles in, the phone rings. “Hello, all of our operators are currently busy, please wait,” says one of those incredibly annoying automated voices, followed by an even more annoying synthesised version of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.”
Couvreur experiences quite a bit over the next hour of The Sensemaker but joy is not among. As she waits awkwardly, the computerised voice gives her a set of instructions. As she blindly but uncertainly follows, the tension increases as she gets increasingly frustrated. But this is a job interview. And it’s a job she wants, so despite everything she does as she is asked.
There are amusing moments as she finally starts to make headway through the automated messages, only for several steps backwards to be made later. Through it all, Couvreur utters not a single word. Her facial expressions say it all.
The amusing becomes increasingly uncomfortable, disturbing even. When the voice tells her to strip off and turn around, she pauses but complies. Her obedience is unsettling. Just how far would she go? Would we be just as compliant, as subservient, as unquestioning? How far would we go? Indeed, just how much do people think but then remain silent and blindly follow.
I’m not sure how you categorise the well-paced The Sensemaker but it is a remarkable solo performance. Couvreur’s presence holds the attention well. When she looks at the audience you feel she is looking at you, ‘speaking’ personally. It also certainly makes you think.
Review: The Sensemaker, Woman’s Move, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, By Hannah Goslin
Get The Chance
Have you ever been on hold? The irritating music. The repetitive recorded voice. The infuriation. But when we reach the end and someone answers, aren’t we polite.
The Sensemaker is a predominantly multimedia, choreographed piece, responding to sound and music, with repetitive, but also different gestures and movement throughout.
We are there to question what is happening, and what would we do for the right opportunity. Some parts of the performance are comical – the performer continues to smile but her eyes and her glances away insist she is nothing but happy – a relatable response to being on hold; and others are unfathomable. Would you really do THAT if you were asked? If your opportunity depended on it?
While the piece is simple, there is a sense of Sci-Fi to it. The recorded voice and the reactions are relatable to anyone who has been stuck on hold. But the responses that are required e.g. ‘Clap 6 times for English.’ ‘Crouch down and take one step to the right …(for analyses)…’. e.t.c is demanding and unusual, making this process the performer goes through feel all too much like a potential future reality.
It feels funny but it also feels dark and unnerving – reaching some points when you really question what she is working for and whether it is worth it. But who are we to question when we may be in the same predicament and willingly do the same things.
With almost 99% pure movement with sound and music queues, The Sensemaker is a really interesting piece; being able to bring something so deep across with only the minimal is quite a feat and a very clever response.
The Sensemaker is good fun, but also dark. It throws up a lot of questions about ourselves, our World and the Future. And watching something very ‘mime’ orientated was a breath of fresh air through the Fringe.
The Sensemaker (Woman's Move)
A woman battles with an answering machine, taking on technology and bureaucracy by completing myriad ridiculous tasks in an entertaining show that walked a line between funny and disturbing. Despite its promise, however, I felt there were problems with the pacing of the performance, which makes sense when taking into account the fact that this has previously been presented as a thirty minute show: I couldn’t help but feel that the shorter length would suit the piece more than its current hour long runtime. It took far too long to get from beat to beat, making the show drag, and my interest was frequently lost. However, the way the solo performer engaged in dialogue with a recorded voice made this very chilling, with the humour at the start was a brilliant juxtaposition to the more horrifying elements at the end.
★★★★★ Fringe Biscuit for The Sensemaker.
Fringe Biscuit writes snappy and succinct reviews in the form of tweets:
The Sensemaker. In an innovative blend of dance & physical theatre, @WomansMove depicts the systematic erosion of autonomy under an automated, mindless bureaucracy. Concepts of choice & consent are challenged on a journey from darkly comic to deeply discomfiting. Captivating. 5/5'
The Sensemaker, ZOO Playground (Playground 1) – Review
Human and machine collide in this surrealistic one-hander devised and performed by Elsa Couvreur. A dystopic portrayal of the arbitrary nature of bureaucracy and our blind trust in automated devices.'Dressed in smart office attire, a woman walks onto the stage. In one corner is an empty chair, a rotary dial phone in the opposite corner. She settles in, as if she is waiting to be called for an interview. The automated message of an answering machine reassures her, “Hello, all of our operators are currently busy, please wait”, followed by a nagging computerised version of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”.
Using the hollow and overpolite jargon of customer service, the voice invites the woman to follow a set of instructions. Blindly, she starts fulfilling the requests, whilst we begin to wonder just how far she’s willing to go. Tension builds when we realise that the tasks are increasingly humiliating, pedantic. The woman’s blind obedience is unsettling. In the most sinister feat, her body becomes an object, entirely subservient to the computer. Driven by a helpless urge to please, she satisfies its every demand, oblivious to those who might be behind the machine. This resounds as a metaphor of modern cyber-communication. Private pictures are often taken naively, then sent out to please someone, with disregard for the boundless connectivity and sharing potential of our devices. Before we know it, they can be all over the web.
The only issue with this performance could be its length. At last year’s Fringe it was one half of a double bill, a mere thirty minutes. Doubling its running time incurs a serious risk of becoming repetitive. The looped messages, which are at first amusing, then more disturbing, are just numbing as the time elapses, their sense of purpose growing weaker.
The Sensemaker is a dystopic portrayal of the arbitrary nature of bureaucracy, a sobering criticism of our blind trust in automated devices. Elsa Couvreur is an insightful artist, who demonstrates utmost dedication to her work.
After Edinburgh, this show will be travelling to a number of international Fringe festivals, including Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, Turkey and Italy.'
Elsa Couvreur: I love how frenetic it is with all those many, many shows
The Fountain - Interview by Keira Brown
The Sensemaker comes to the Edinburgh Fringe this year, a show about a woman trying to meet the expectations of an artificial voice. Flipping between different languages and genres of music, her movements are precise as she strains to keep her tightly orchestrated routine in time. As the voice’s demands become absurd, she has to choose between obedience and integrity. Director, Elsa Couvreur, spoke with The Fountain about the show and her plans for the Fringe.
TF: You are performing at the Edinburgh Fringe this year, how exciting?
Very, especially because the show I am bringing to this year’s Fringe, The Sensemaker, is the most personal work I ever made. I really love performing it, it is pretty challenging! I am really looking forward to share it with various audiences at the Fringe. This year will be my second Edinburgh Fringe and last year we brought not one, not two… But three different shows to Scotland: the short version of The Sensemaker, a group piece called Drop the Gogo and a duet in collaboration with Divisar-Mehdi Duman, Anchor. We performed only for ten days and even so, it was completely exhausting and there were moments when I thought we would not be able to make it. However, I still fell in love with the Edinburgh Fringe – I love how frenetic it is with all those many, many shows and how inspiring it is to see other artists from everywhere in the world. I am also really happy to have been selected again by Zoo Venues – I loved every Zoo show I saw last year and I feel honoured they chose The Sensemaker to be part of their 2019 programme.
TF: The Sensemaker certainly sounds interesting, what is the premise?
The Sensemaker is a solo show; however it can almost be seen as a duet between a performer and a robotic voice. Have you ever waited on the phone for way too long, with repetitive music playing on a loop and an irritating voice telling you endlessly that your request is being processed? Yes, you have. We all have. And so does the protagonist of The Sensemaker until she is slowly stretched to her limits. Why is she waiting? We don’t know, but it seems to be of utmost importance to her. As the voice’s demands become more and more questionable, she has to choose between obedience and integrity. Mixing theatre and dance, this absurdist battle between a woman and an answering machine depicts what happens when a single individual struggles through bureaucracy and faces the gigantic machinery of an unjust system.
TF: And what drove the project, where did your influences lie?
The Sensemaker has been created three times. I first created the very early parts of The Sensemaker in… 2012 for a festival called Les Quarts D’Heures at Théâtre Sévelin in Lausanne, Switzerland. This platform gives to emerging choreographers an opportunity to show a 15min work. Back then, the show was called To Make Myself Clear and was very different, an except for 4 or 5 minutes that is still the same in today’s The Sensemaker. It gave me ideas for the 30min version of The Sensemaker, that was created 5 years later, in 2017, for the Théâtre de l’Abri in Geneva. And finally, the long – and, I think, final – version of the piece, lasting one hour, has been created for the Voila!Europe Festival in London last November. So in six year’s time I certainly had a lot of different influences. I tend to like dystopias – one of the reviewers said The Sensemaker looked like an episode of Black Mirror live on stage, which is a pretty flattering comparison – as well as theatre of the absurd like Beckett and Kafka. Most of all, I am such a typical millennial – I just love gifs, memes and pop culture, and I dropped a lot of inside jokes in The Sensemaker.
Also, even though I live in Switzerland, I am originally from Belgium. Having lived in two multilingual countries, it was natural for me to have different languages in this piece, however English remains the main one. And finally, the plot is inspired by Milgram’s experiment, where a volunteer had to administrate electric shocks to another person. I find that experiment fascinating – we can so easily find ourselves to obey to an unjust authority.
TF: What are your plans for the Fringe, having been before are there any tips or musts you would offer to first-time performers?
What comes to my mind at first: try to get some good night sleep, eat healthy, don’t over work. Take care of yourself. Don’t drink too much. The Edinburgh Fringe is very intense and you will need all your energy. But also, watch as many shows as you can, especially free shows, and especially shows you would normally not go and see. Enjoy every time you perform, even if there are only a few audience members – which will likely happen if you’re a first-timer. I personally really want to see Hot Brown Honey for the empowerment, Shitfaced Shakespeare because I like silly stuff, as much as I can see from the Zoo programme, and random shows I never heard about.
TF: And what are your future plans beyond The Sensemaker?
I am co-directing the collective Woman’s Move with my colleague Iona D’Annuzio. We don’t create any work together, but we do support each other artistically and administratively. We would love to tour the shows we already have as much as we can. After the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, The Sensemaker will be performed at the Gothenburg Fringe, the Stockholm Fringe, the Lahti Fringe and the Istanbul Fringe – very excited about that as well – and also at the Théâtre du Pommier in Neuchâtel, Switzerland and the European Cabaret Competition Niederstätter surPrize in Bolzano, Italy. Maybe this year’s Edinburgh Fringe will give us a few more opportunities, finger crossed! We do not plan on creating new work before 2020 though, but we certainly have some ideas of what will come next : a duet and another group piece, but that will be a story for the next episode!
You can see The Sensemaker at Zoo Venues, Playground 1 from 2nd – 26th August (Not Wednesdays) at 15:15. For tickets, please visit www.edfringe.com
Les artistes émergents à l'honneur à la fête de la danse
Reportage by Leman Bleu
Reportage made by TV Channel Leman Bleu about the event "La danse du Bunker" during Fête de la Danse 2019.
Featuring an interview of Iona D'Annuzio about the show Gender Cubicles.
Teknologia ja inhimillisyys törmäävät – Elsa Couvreur käy aistikasta ja älykästä vuoropuhelua nykyteknologian kanssa
Turun Sanomat - Mia Hannula
'Elsa Couvreurin The Sensemaker yhdistää tanssia ja mimiikkaa.Sveitsiläinen tanssitaiteilija Elsa Couvreur törmäyttää esityksessä The Sensemaker persoonattoman teknologian ja inhimillisen kokemusmaailman. Esitys on koominen ja kriittinen kuva todellisuudesta, jossa asiat hoidetaan tekniikan välityksellä ja kommunikoidaan koneen kanssa.Tanssia ja mimiikkaa yhdistävässä esityksessä nykyteknologia on läsnä äänimaiseman muodossa. Esiintyjä kehollistaa koneellisen kanssakäymisen vaikutuksen ja ilmentää kokemuksen inhimillisen kirjon. Virallinen asianhoito on valahtaa teknisten ja byrokraattisten järjestelmien päättömyyksiin, mutta nainen jatkaa humoristisella neuvokkuudellaan vihoviimeiseen nöyryytykseen saakka.Teknologian ihmisiä yhdistävää ilosanomaa haastaa eri kielten ja kulttuurien kakofonia. Kanavasta toiseen surffatessa tieto on hukkua viihteeseen, kaupallisuuteen ja ideologiaan. Kuvaavasti tunnusmusiikki on syntetisoitu versio Euroopan unionin hymnistä, Beethovenin sävellyksestä Oodi ilolle. Latteimpaankin konevärssyyn reagoidaan riemukkaasti kommentoivalla koreografialla.Teos ilmentää teknologian lieveilmiöitä. Järjestelmissä ihminen typistyy numerosarjaksi ja vuorovaikutus tapahtuu fraasein, joissa ei huomioida yksilöllisiä tekijöitä ja inhimillisen elämän nyansseja. Tarkkailuun, yksityisyyden menettämiseen ja teknisiin häiriötekijöihin altistumisessa on omat riskinsä. Esitys tarjoaa mainiota asennetta, jolla vastata näihin kriittisiin kohtiin.'
Woman’s move to the Finfringe – The Sensemaker
Blog article by Elsa Couvreur.
"Let me introduce myself to you: my name is Elsa Couvreur and I am the artistic codirector of the collective Woman’s Move. Woman’s Move was created in 2012 and is codirected by Iona D’Annunzio and myself. Even though we do not create pieces together, we do help each other on the administrative field and support each other’s work. In our productions, we use movement as a way of exploring the social imagery present in our daily life. Our dance pieces are rhythmic and theatrical and use irony and humor as tools to communicate on various society issues.
’The Sensemaker’ is a mix of theatre, dance and mime and shows a woman struggling with the impossible requests of an artificial voice. I really love performing it and already did so in four different languages: French, English, Italian and German. In ‘The Sensemaker’ I tried to tackle important topics such as immigration, unemployment, new technologies or bureaucracy, and overall the feeling of being « stuck » in our lives that the generations Y and Z can feel – but with a lot of dark humor. Another reviewer (West End Penguins) described ’The Sensemaker’ as « an episode of Black Mirror live on stage »… So it can give you a better idea on what to expect!
The creation process of ’The Sensemaker’ happened as such: at first I created the piece lasting 30 minutes for the Théâtre de l’Abri in Geneva. A year an half and quite a few tours in Europe later, I created the longer version that will be presented at the Finfringe, lasting one hour. It was very fun to create the piece and play with different tools such as body language, wordplay, audio texts, mime, acting and dance moves, working on the soundtrack and my movements at the same time. I will love to share a little bit of that in the workshop I will be giving at the Läntinen tanssin aluekeskus on Saturday 11th of May at 1PM! You should join in!
Since its creation, our collective Woman’s Move produced more than 10 projects – solo’s, duets and group pieces alike. Amongst them, ‘Drop the Gogo’, for six dancers, questions our relationship to superficiality, body image and social status. Did you know that nowadays, more pictures are taken each day than during the entire 20th century? Crazy, right?
The Sensemaker will be performed in ÅST Studioscenen on Friday 10th of May at 20:45, and on Saturday 11th of May at 17:15.
Our coming tours, besides the Finfringe of course, will be in Geneva, Paris, Edinburgh, Göteborg, Stockholm and Neuchâtel (Switzerland). We are very excited about that as performing internationally has always been our goal – we love culture exchange and sharing with performers and audiences from all over the world.
See you soon at the Finfringe!
Wie kreative Frauen die Kleinkunst kräftig aufmischen
"Götterfunken in der Warteschleife
Hinter dem Namen Woman’s Move steht die Schweizer Tänzerin Elsa Couvreur, die mit ihrem Programm «Sensemaker» das Publikum in seiner Geduld auf die Probe stellt. Denn die junge Frau steckt in einerTelefonwarteschleife fest. Die Hinhaltemusik am
Telefon ätzt mit Beethovens «Freude schöner Götterfunken», die sie aber zu einer hinreissenden Tanzperformance auffordert, mit der sie sich aus der Schleife entfesselt."
"In «Sensemaker», dem Programm der Tänzerin Elsa Couvreur, balanciert eine junge Frau, gefangen in einer Telefonwarteschleife, am Rande des Wahnsinns. Fotos: Patric Spahni"
A heart-warming look at love: Woman’s Move & Cie Divisar in Anchor
'Before watching Anchor, one couldn’t help but smile upon reading the programme notes: “Somehow, we both felt it, and we had to do a show together.” Then further on: “What do you think about doing a show on love?” and “I wanted to suggest the same theme!” This exchange took place after a destined chance meeting between the pair at a dance workshop in Switzerland.
The conversation between Switzerland-based Elsa Couvreur (Woman’s Move) and Mehdi Duman (Cie Divisar) led to the creation of a duet that follows the lives of a couple. Premiered at last year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, it looks at the universal topic of love in all manner of wonderful and unexpected ways. Both dancers lovingly create a magical, playful, hour-long performance that is both comically uplifting and sweetly endearing. You can’t help but feel a part of their magic which is rather intimate tucked away in the warm, cosy space of the Camden People’s Theatre.
Most notable is that the two dancers have quite a lot of fun on stage. There is a delightful chemistry between them, and they share a great charisma that naturally captures the attention of the audience, where smiles, giggles and bursts of laughter are common place.
As the lights come up, the two are seen in underwear as they take turns in dragging each other across the stage, which is comically and lightly done to ‘Only You’ by The Platters, playing in the background. Later on, and fully dressed, more love ballads are featured as the pair simultaneously sing a compilation of well-known tunes to each other by the likes of Celine Dion, James Blunt and Whitney Houston.
In the show’s beginning, a thoughtful and truthful speech about love is spoken in the score, concluding with “Love is like a bird.” This sentiment is followed by a sweet and comical bird cooing that makes regular re-appearances from Mehdi Duman over the show’s duration. Other animal references appear too, one of which sees the pair playfully crawling in dog-like fashion around each other. There is meowing from Elsa Couvreur and a surprise ending where the two make a very different costume change. That conclusion is both funny and heart-warming.
Couvreur and Duman are inclusive with their watchers and get rather close to them, bringing members of the audience on stage and running around in a lively and frantic need to share their love. The audience are very much involved in all of this and are at one point clapping together with both of the dancers doing the same.
Within the naturally comedic aspects of the piece, there are moments of frustration that are exercised through screaming and shrieking at each other. Alongside this, Couvreur and Duman use different ways of saying, “I love you” or “I love you more” which becomes increasingly more competitive as they continue to express their affections. This eventually translates into a series of gestures and mouthing as they continue to describe how they love each other more, and at times becoming suggestive and saucy.
Among all the humour, there is a fondness and tenderness to their performance that is seen in the loving embraces that are exchanged, and particularly memorable in the final moments of the show. The charms and thoughtfulness of Anchor linger long after the show has ended and might make one think about the romances that they have in one’s own life.'
Anchored in Joy
The Peg Review
'This is a joyous delight. The genesis of the piece, as described in the programme, is exactly as you would expect. They were thrown together as if by chance and invited to collaborate. And have managed to produce a brilliant collaborative work. They explore the duality of the idea of a relationship as an anchor – if it is a source of stability, is it also holding you back from fulfilling your potential?
The authenticity and integrity of the performances from Elsa Couvreur and Mehdi Duman are utterly beguiling.
Full disclosure, I am not normally a dance fan. I was, however, delighted by Elsa Couvreur’s performance in The Sensemaker and therefore jumped at the chance to see more of her work here. As with The Sensemaker, the music is varied and often non-existent. The sounds we hear are the noises of bodies coming together, breathing, sweating. The difference this time is that there are two performers, but both equally committed and energetic.
With brutal simple physicality they brilliantly render the idea that you simply can’t get past someone you are meant to be with. They render the mutual teasing and bickering as the relationship forms and coagulates. They show the to-ing and fro-ing of power and attraction.
The show is sensual and erotic from the outset, when both performers emerge in their underwear in a set strewn with their clothes. The effect is not dissipated as they get dressed again – indeed this is reminiscent of the scenes in Don’t Look Now when Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie’s lovemaking and dressing are spliced together.
One of my problems with dance is the frustration that the actors cannot talk to each other, thereby losing one of our most fundamental means of communication. This show ingeniously turns that on its head by playing a scene where the protagonists dance through the soundtrack to their first meeting. Their direct physical embodiment of their incipient mutual attraction to the backtrack of party hubbub and their relatively banal chat is masterfully done, to exquisite effect.
If there are criticisms, you could perhaps argue that there is not enough development of the theme. We could perhaps have seen more arguing, jealousy, boredom. But my overall sense was that this was a joyful exploration of the delight of two people stumbling across each other and falling inexorably in love.
There is a primal aspect to any coupling – we know this has been going on for millennia. In an hilarious climax to proceedings, this is brought home to us to the strains of Elvis and a madcap costume change.
This was a collaboration between Cie Divisar and Woman’s Move. Look out for further performances from them.'
The Sensemaker and The Anchor
Plays To See
This double-bill of dance pieces both star an impressive and athletic Elsa Couvreur – often centre stage without even music.
The Sensemaker is the tale of a woman’s struggle with a Kafka-esque bureaucracy. This play is in part commentary on the arbitrary nature of dealing with faceless machines, telephones and surveillance; part tale on the nature of the hoops we are increasingly forced to jump through as power dynamics in so many areas of our lives widen.
Couvreur dances alone for the whole hour. She follows the increasingly difficult, challenging and bizarre instructions of an unnamed disconnected and clearly mechanised voice as these get ever more bizarre. There are times when this becomes uncomfortable. Having made it clear they can see where she is, they then make her strip completely naked. Which goes on for long enough for the audience to feel uncomfortable and voyeuristic – which is perhaps the point.
For me, the piece ran slightly too long. The original was only 30 minutes and I would have liked to have seen this to compare. But in its length, it did manage to invoke the oppression of mundanity that dealing with such an unreasonable and unhuman system engenders.
The Anchor on the other hand is full of utterly charming joy. The tale of two lovers coming together, falling apart, communicating, miscommunicating and ending up together was expressed with passion, joie de vivre and a dance that showed the incredible core strength of both participants.
Again this piece had no original music, but played well with the classics it used and the silences were well-punctuated with the sounds of their lovers pursuit.
This was – perhaps the easier piece to love. It had all the fun and silliness of a new relationship. And perhaps that made it more accessible than The Sensemaker. This was an emotional space you wanted to be in.
Overall, both works were impressive and enjoyable if occasionally somewhat baffling.
Gender Cubicles par le Collectif Woman's Move
L'Agenda - Jennifer Barel
Les 21 et 26 novembre dernier, six danseuses et danseurs sont venus chambouler les habitudes du hall d’Uni-Mail, à Genève. À travers trois tableaux de dix minutes chacun, les artistes nous intriguent, d’abord, puis nous embarquent dans un univers qui questionne le genre sous des rythmes breakbeat. C’est le dernier projet du collectif Woman’s Move, qui, à travers la puissance du corps, cherche à bousculer l’ordre établi et éveiller les réflexions.
Dans les locaux du Projet – H107 pour la création en danse contemporaine, j’ai le privilège d’assister à l’une des dernières répétitions avant le jour J. Devant la petite assistance, les danseuses et danseurs présentent leur spectacle, concentrés et énergiques, avant que la chorégraphe et responsable du projet, Iona D’Annunzio, propose que nous donnions nos avis et d’éventuelles recommandations. Une ouverture à la collaboration avec le public qui traduit bien la volonté d’accessibilité dont m’a parlé Iona. « Gender Cubicles » veut questionner le genre, mais surtout provoquer la réflexion chez le spectateur. Pour cela, elle a créé un spectacle accessible tout en restant subtile.
Un spectacle pensé spécialement pour le hall d’Uni-Mail. Lorsque la musique commence, la fourmilière universitaire s’étonne et ralentit. Les curieux regardent et s’approchent. Certains sourient ou sortent leur portable pour filmer, d’autres se penchent depuis les étages pour observer le spectacle et les plus motivés osent même quelques pas de danse au rythme de la musique. les danseuses et danseurs jouent avec l’architecture du lieu, chaque tableau se déroulant sur une scène différente. Une première fois sur les grandes marches aux allures de gradins d’amphithéâtre, ayant chacun·e sa marche et sa couleur de tenue sportive, les danseur·seuse·s nous offrent un véritable tableau en trois dimensions sur un bon rythme tapant. Puis, en face, sur les deux escaliers formant un triangle, ils·elles montent, descendent, changent de côté, mais surtout transmettent leur énergie à travers des chorégraphies belles et dynamiques. Pendant un court moment, le temps est suspendu et une succession de chorégraphies questionnent les gestuelles féminine et masculine; qui les fait, qu’est-ce qu’elles signifient? Enfin, au centre du hall, au niveau du sol, ils·elles détonnent et s’abandonnent à leurs danses dans un dernier souffle explosif.
Un interlude qui vous prend par surprise, une bonne dose d’énergie qui met du « punch » dans la journée, une coupure captivante qui invite subtilement à la réflexion sur le monde et sur soi-même. Par des danses et musiques aux mouvements et sonorités actuelles, cette performance pousse à se questionner sur la place de son propre corps et de ses gestes et, plus loin, remet en question les normes de genre dans la société d’aujourd’hui.
Mis en mots lors d’une table ronde accueillant deux acteur·trice·s de la scène artistique de la région et une doctorante à l’université de Genève, les questionnements liant le genre et les pratiques artistiques sont, dans ce spectacle, traduits en gestes et surtout en émotions, offrant une autre manière d’aborder ce thème et d’éveiller les consciences. Cette performance est une alarme qui veut retentir autrement que par les mots.
À la fin, des danseur·seuse·s essoufflé·e·s et satisfait·e·s, une chorégraphe contente, des applaudissements et cris d’encouragements de spectateur·trices·s touché·e·s viennent clore ce beau spectacle. Parmi le public, les discussions concernant le genre se prolongent, objectif atteint? En tout cas pour certain·e·s, reste à convaincre les autres! Pour cela, le collectif Woman’s Move prévoit déjà un deuxième round lors de la semaine de l’égalité en mars, peut-être à Uni-Mail, peut-être dans un autre bâtiment universitaire de Genève. Car c’est cela l’intelligence de cette performance, pouvoir s’adapter à tout type de lieux, et être adaptée à tous les publics.
Interview: The Sensemaker
Interview about The Sensemaker at the Voila!Europe Festival
Interview of Elsa Couvreur, conducted by Laura Jaramillo Duque.
In this series for Voila! Europe Theatre Festival, Laura Jaramillo Duque interviews artists about their work, the shows they’re bringing to Voila, and their plans for the future…
Laura spoke to Elsa Couvreur, creator and performer of The Sensemaker (Cockpit Theatre, 7 November).
The Sensemaker shows the inner turmoil of a woman as she tries to meet the impossible expectations of a synthetic voice. Smartly dressed, standing behind a phone, she is slowly stretched to her limits. Flipping between different languages and genres of music, her moves are precise as she strains to keep her tightly orchestrated routine in time. As the voice’s demands become absurd, she has to choose between obedience and integrity. Will her hopes to succeed be stronger than her growing confusion?
LJ: What drew you to the Voila festival? What opportunities do you hope it will open for you?
EC: I knew the Voila Festival because I went last year to see a show of a friend of mine who performed at the BE Festival, so I also heard about the Voila because of the BE festival in Birmingham. When I came last year I really liked the programme, I could not see most of the shows, but I looked at it and I thought it was really nice. Also, I really liked the concept of trying to have different artists from all over Europe; so I decided to apply.
About the opportunities I think it already opened opportunities for me, the first opportunity was to perform The Sensemaker in a long version because it was created specially for the Voila Festival. The other opportunities were to get to meet people, like the people that work at The Cockpit and also working at different festivals. It already opened opportunities for me to present my show at other festivals that I’ll be giving more information soon. Also I invited some guests from the press industry to have a few reviews, which were really positive, that’s also great for the piece.
LJ: What is the value of cross-cultural theatre?
EC: Its value is to discover something that surprises you and that comes from a different logic than yours. I realised that also a company from Switzerland coming to the UK is different because I have a feeling that people in the UK have more of a culture of stand-up comedy and musicals, I feel they want to laugh when they go to a theatre, it is an important part of it. An example is when I was at the Edinburg Fringe Festival you could see on their flyers comments like: “it’s hilarious, is really funny,” and it feels like its very important for people, for the audience in the UK. While in Switzerland is very different, it is more performative, profound or conceptual. The fact that my piece is funny is something that really add more people to the show, for me that is really interesting to observe, like how different audiences react to the same piece, also how reactive the audience is because people in the UK are more used to laugh while people in other places laugh about different things, probably because they think it is disrespectful. This also changes the look that I have on my piece, from being a funny piece to being more of a dark piece; it really depends on the reactions of the audience. It also depends on the reason why people go to theatre and what they like to see.
LJ: How does your cultural background affect your creative process?
EC: That is a tricky question because I am originally Belgian and I’ve been living in Switzerland for 10 years, I came when I was 18 that is just the moment when I was growing up, so I suppose that part of my cultural background is Belgian and part is Swiss. I guess I’ve been influenced by both cultures a lot. Also, I went to a Ballet school until I was 18, it was very academic and strict; it was very centred in classical techniques. So it was very funny because I discovered Belgium dance after I left Belgium. This type of dance is very theatrical and I really like it, so I wonder if I was influenced without knowing.
LJ: Why London?
EC: I guess because of the Voila Festival and again because it’s in the UK. Also I applied to many festivals and it seems that the ones that liked the piece are in the UK for the moment. I liked about the festival that there was a lot of variety in the programme and also the themes of cultural barriers, cultural differences, modern world, injustice and gender were common to all of the shows of the festival. I feel that everyone had something to say about the world and how it is now.
LJ: Why did you create Woman’s Move?
EC: I realised I wanted to create some pieces and I didn’t want to that alone; I wanted to create on my own but I didn’t feel strong enough to have a company on my own. So I talked to two friends of mine 6 years ago and they agreed, so we created Woman’s Move collective and we are three artistic directors. We started with small projects that we felt like doing, we didn’t choreograph together, but is always like if one has an idea and lead the project while the other ones support her in terms of paper work, administration, publicity and all the things on the side. So we change the roles so that each one can lead a project and create a piece. It is quite nice because is very heavy to have a structure on your own and its something that a lot of people that don’t work in the arts is know and is that you spend 90% of your time not doing art, you are doing administrative things instead, so when you share this its really nice. It is actually a job, people live for that kind of job that they do fulltime, is just that when you are a small structure you need to do that job yourself. I had to learn like three other jobs besides choreographer; I had to learn just by doing it how to administrate, how to be an accountant and how to be a community manager. I think a lot of artists are in the same position.
LJ: Why is dance an important art form to question the society we live at?
EC: Because it comes from the guts, it makes people feel things because before they think of them. For example what you said about this piece making you feel a certain way is very nice to hear because is what I want to do is people to feel empathy so that they can feel my situation, so that they can feel the same things that I felt: shame, humiliation, vulnerability, wanting to resist and not knowing how to do it. I think that dance is a very good way to make people feel a certain way without explaining the situation. I think that if you try to explain emotions to the audience then you will not me able to make them feel them because dance is a very instinctive form of art, you just have to move and let your body do something to deliver a message in a natural way. There is a common thing in most of arts and is how do you make it understandable and accessible for other people. The way dance can communicate is with feelings rather than toughs.
LJ: How did you manage the timings of your show, how did you find a balance between too much and not enough time for you and the audience to wait?
EC: It was very nice performance for me, I really felt the audience with me and I think this piece requires a lot of concentration from the audience in the beginning because I am just waiting for 5 minutes. So it’s like: “Hey guys, we are going to wait together.”
I made this possible by trying different timings and trying to feel when it was too long for me. Also, because I performed this piece in the short version that is 25 minutes long, actually the solo just existed in that version and it was really nice to make it longer for Voila. Sometimes I performed the short version outside and it is very tough because I needed to make the times shorter because people is not locked up with me, so it was much more difficult to have the attention and to have the same effects. But in general just by trying, make it a little bit longer, a little bit shorter and see how it felt. Also in the whole piece I played with timing to make it a little bit too long or a little bit too short.
I use to play music and I am really sensitive to music and to rhythm, so somehow it is a part of it. Also in acting it is about right timing and right rhythm.
LJ: How does repetition allow you to challenge our ideas of authority?
EC: that particular part where I repeat a lot of gestures with different sounds, in itself is not questioning authority, that part is more of an introduction to make people come into this absurd world in which the piece is going to happen. For me this is like a view of the piece because you have a lot of different languages, I repeat the same gestures over and over again and they fit every language, every part that the people say. For me it is questioning the lack of communication and lack of understanding between different people, different languages, different cultures and different countries. In one of the reviews that I had they said something about the authority of a continent that has more than 30 countries and probably twice as many languages, so I think is about that because it can be hard to communicate.
LJ: In your piece you only spoke for a few seconds when everything was dark, how does authority erase your voice and your capacity of speaking by yourself?
EC: yes I think so, also because in the piece there is this moment that I start dancing the little stupid music of the phone; it is one of the only moments in the piece that I am really joyful and then I am interrupted by this voice telling me that I am being filmed in order to improve their services. This is also something real in our world because with Internet, our phone and gps we are constantly observed. For example now we are talking on Skype and someone can hear this is they want to crack it, I have a camera so probably someone can look at that as well, or when I take my phone somewhere there is a gps on it so people can track me. So for me this moment of the piece where everything goes dark is the moment that the machine stops working and that is why I talk, cause I feel relieved but also a bit panicked when I talk because there is a problem, I am not happy with the machine but at the same time I cannot do nothing without machines, even if it hurt me in different ways. We now depend on machines.
LJ: What are your next projects?
EC: for the moment I have the premier of another project of my company, but this time is not me choreographing is one of my friends of the company, the piece is called Gender Cubicles and it is questioning the gender rules and the rules we have to fit in and follow, and those that we can break regarding gender. It is a project that Iona made in collaboration with the university in Geneva, so we worked with a round table as well and I am really exited about that. For what I personally do I have exiting news for next year that I will be releasing soon on social media…
The Sensemaker review
West End Penguins
I went to see a short show called 'The Sensemaker', by the company Woman's Move, as part of the Voila!Europe Festival at the Cockpit Theatre. The show is described as follows:
The Sensemaker shows a woman battling with an answering machine, trying to meet the expectations of an artificial voice. Flipping between different languages and genres of music, her moves are precise as she strains to keep her tightly orchestrated routine in time. As the voice's demands become absurd, she has to choose between obedience and integrity.
The thing that I loved about this show is how relatable it is and how different people will get something different from it. You can take it as simple as you want, it's just a woman having to deal with those automated systems we've all dealt whith during a customer service phone call. Or you can read more into it, and take it as a way of exposing how vulnerable we are when someone in a position of power makes absurd demands to give us something we need. Or a representation of the nightmare it is to deal with bureaucracy. The best thing of this show is that everyone will relate to it, but everyone in a different manner.
In just 50 minutes you can see how the woman struggles to follow all the requirements, reaching a point where, like the synopsis said, she has to choose between obedience and integrity. Having studied psychology I understand what happens in these kinds of situations. If you like the topic of obedience under pressure, search for Milgram's experiment and you'll be surprised of what people can do. That kind of surprise is palpable in the audience as the show goes on.
Elsa Couvreur wrote the show and is the only performer in it. Originally a 30 minute show it was extended for this festival, and I believe it has a perfect duration. She barely speaks in the whole 50 minutes, apart from a couple of sentences and some lip sync, and that's the beauty of the show, being able to transmit all it has to transmit without saying much.
I think 'The Sensemaker' is a brilliant piece of theatre. It was like watching an episode of 'Black Mirror' live on stage. Starting as comedy you can see how suddenly it gets a bit darker and, the most important thing, it leaves you thinking, wondering how we behave, how technology runs our lives telling us what to do, or anything else that you found you can relate to. I'm sure you'll find something.
Stop Making Sense
The Peg Review
Voilà Europe! is a festival of theatre which celebrates Europe’s multicultural and multilingual diversity of drama, dance, music and more. It is running at multiple venues across London until 18th November, and on the evidence of tonight’s performance, it would be well worth checking out.
‘The Sensemaker’ is basically unclassifiable. It is a one woman show, the concept, choreography and performance are by Elsa Couvreur of the Swiss-based Woman’s Move dance collective. It does, however, feature an outstanding contribution from the voice responsible for all the recorded messages. It ranges from the hilariously funny to the toe-curlingly embarrassing and the downright disturbing. It is at once a celebration of the madcap absurdity of a continent containing more than 30 countries and probably twice as many languages as well as a grim reminder of the horrors wrought in this place when the laughter stops. It is a dance show in which the protagonist spends much of the time standing still. It is a piece of mime which can get very noisy indeed. It is both a dream and a nightmare.
Our heroine shuffles nervously onto the corner of the Cockpit’s unforgiving stage, surrounded on three sides. She is dressed as if for a job interview, clutching her handbag demurely, unsure whether to sit on the only available chair. We are engaged, as though fellow candidates also waiting our turn. In that awkward moment where we hope she does well, but not too well.
Instructions begin to be dictated from the old-fashioned telephone on the table opposite. It transpires that she has made a ‘request’ which is being ‘processed’ – the shades of Kafka, Orwell and The Prisoner collide when the machine starts to refer to her repeatedly by her number. She gets a moment to explain the request but it is of course lip-synched in another language (Swiss German) so I did not understand it but that is perhaps the point.
The recorded voice is an absolute masterstroke. The voice is exactly the one we hear on our phones, tubes and buses, with exactly the same imprecisions of tone, emphasis and language which may seem trivial but end up driving you mad. Also the choice of Muzak – the midi version of the Ode to Joy – amusing and witty as it is at first outing becomes, as in real life, increasingly infuriating. There is a lovely riff where our heroine gets deeply engaged with conducting the on-hold music, and is rudely interrupted by the return of the voice. We have all been there.
There are so many good things here – an extended sequence of lip synching to multilingual soundtrack – I recognised Ewan McGregor in Trainspotting, and what I think was a French jingle advertising Formica among many other delights – was made funnier still by the repetition of the same gestures for each of the contrasting pieces. When Elsa actually does get to dance she is very good, in spite of the machine’s instructions.
The funniest sequence was when the machine appeared to go wrong, and gabbled out an immensely long series of nonsensical instructions. Our heroine nevertheless mastered them and proceeded to deliver an accomplished dance routine to the tune of ‘I’m So Excited’.
The most poignant sequence was when the machine issued the instruction to get undressed. The sense of Nazi extermination camps was inescapable, and even the treatment of today’s refugees. When she is allowed to get dressed and finally hears that her request has been granted we are all complicit again in wondering whether it was worth it.
This is a work that was developed originally to run for 30 minutes. In this evening’s incarnation it ran for about 50 and I think it has potential to expand further. I, for one, will be looking out for future possibilities. If you get a chance to see this or anything by the collective, seize it with both hands. If anything proves that Europe is worth more than endless Brexit wrangling, this does. Voilà Europe, indeed!
Gender Cubicles in Go Out Magazine
Picture of the Month
Gender Cubicles (choreographed by Iona D'Annunzio) published as Picture of the Month in the magazine Go Out.
Picture by Varvara Vedia.
Dance at the Edinburgh Fringe
Dancing Times - David Mead
Greenside Nicolson Square threw up a delightful hour in the company of Elsa Couvreur of Woman's Move and Mehdi Duman in Anchor. In a wonderfully observed probing, the performers open the door on love, something they cannot escape from, however hard they try, or at least they think they try. Their personalities shone through in the quality dance and light-touch humour. I smiled for hours afterwards.
At ZOO Charteris, Couvreur also presented The Sensemaker, an amusing solo showing her battling the impossible expectations of a recorded telephone voice, and the engaging Drop the Gogo, in which six go-go dancers question their dreams and ambitions.
The Sensemaker and Drop the Gogo
British Theatre Guide - Keith Mckenna
There’s no missing the contemporary allusions in the two performance pieces from Woman's Move.
In The Sensemaker, an unnamed woman (Elsa Couvreur), neatly dressed in a blouse and black skirt, waits in a queue. We are never quite sure what the queue is for but the experience is familiar.
A recorded voice tells her she is number 3854782 and asks her to move to the centre of the room. The music playing while she waits is Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, the anthem adopted by the European Union.
But there is not much joy in just waiting, so when number 3854782 hears voices in different languages, she lip-synchs and matches what is said to hand and arm movements, only pausing in comic shock to the words, ”what’s the point of living if you haven’t got a dick.”
Her gestures later become more exuberant, as if she is conducting Beethoven, and then she dances.
All this is interrupted by the recorded voice requiring her to answer personal, sexual and political questions with one clap for yes or two claps for no.
Finally, as she is asked to demonstrate her suitability by dancing for the machine, a technical hitch means she is required to begin the process again.
But by that time, the woman has had enough. Smiling and with a wave of her hand, she leaves.
Maybe she was attending an audition, or as a migrant seeking entry to the EU. Perhaps metaphorically she represented the UK forced through endless hoops in their negotiation process. And if it’s the latter, then this could possibly make the show the first to have anything positive to say about Brexit.
The six dancers of Drop the Gogo have jobs, and what could be better than dancing for a living, which they do initially with a good deal of pleasure atop six boxes.
But very quickly, the movements become more mechanical, repetitive and uncomfortable. They try on other clothes, other jobs such as the lab coat of the doctor, though each in turn looks part of the ritual of the GoGo dance.
Restless, they don militaristic caps, their dance incorporating the rhythmic sound of marching as they fire from bubble guns creating striking, colourful images across the stage.
Just as it is looking quite spectacular, there is darkness followed by a moment of light illuminating a frozen image of some terrible war atrocity.
These fine dance pieces are enjoyable to watch and have something playfully subversive to say about the world.
The Sensemaker / Drop the Gogo
Fringe Guru - Richard Stamp
This double-bill of physical theatre delivers its messages lightly, but addresses timely topics around the exploitation of workers – while remaining intriguing and entertaining throughout.
The Sensemaker, a solo piece from Elsa Couvreur, sees an anonymous woman from the near future taking part in the phone-interview from hell. Many of us will recognise the basics of this situation, but a handful of clever subversions – the phone which doesn't ring in quite the way it ought to, the unexpected change to the music-on-hold – turn what could be a slightly predictable scenario into one that stays surprising and fresh. There's plenty of comedy here, but also some necessary darkness; the woman's identified only by a number, and the computerised voice conducting the interview inevitably segues into asking questions about her personal life.
The mainstay of the piece, though, is a lengthy sequence where Couvreur lip-synchs to a series of voice-overs, using exaggerated gestures to illustrate the words. The fragmentary quotes she mimes along to are drawn from many sources, yet the same gestures come back again and again – illustrating very different phrases, but fitting each one just as well. It's a lot of fun, but it's also intellectually interesting: proof that the most individualistic things or people can, on the surface, be reduced to resemble each other.
So what does it all mean? I'd guess there's no single right answer to that. For me, alongside the obvious humour, there's a point about the difference between volition and obligation; when the woman passes the time by dancing, it's a sunny and sparkling moment, but it feels completely different when the anonymous voice orders her to do the same. She does have agency, though, and the low-key way she chooses to express it is a fitting finale to the work.
The second piece, Drop The Gogo, tackles related themes in a contrasting style. This time, far from a solo performance, the stage is filled with movement; a mixed-gender cast display themselves on podiums, and dance with what initially seems like free-spirited joy. Their movements, too, are both individual and synchronised. They're able to express themselves – but only to a degree.
And of course, they're not as happy as they seem. The dance grows less joyful, more desperate, more mechanical – and then in a series of solo vignettes, we see what these people would really like to be doing with their time. One wanted to be a doctor, one wanted to be a construction worker, one a fireman. This isn't a preachy or worthy piece – the mildly sensual tone of the early dance is retained throughout – but there's a general sense of ambitions lost, and cynicism gained.
A small part of me asks whether go-go dancing is an easy target, and the piece does carry the slightly questionable implication that dancing in a nightclub is a second-class career. But it's a well-constructed work, which makes the point it wants to make with eloquence and wit. And the final, hopeful image – a twist to a segment which seemed to be heading somewhere much darker – is a truly uplifting visual highlight.
The Sensemaker and Drop The Gogo are very different pieces, but they complement each other in asking probing questions about employment and individuality. The combination makes for an entertaining but, ultimately, thought-provoking show.
The Scotsman - Kelly Apter
Falling in love is easy, staying in love is harder - something everyone who has experienced it will recognise in this playful two-hander. Dancers Elsa Couvreur and Mehdi Duman, of companies Woman's Move and Divisar respectively, arrive on stage dressed in their underwear. They drag each other around the floor, at turns weighed down by the responsibility or enjoying the ride, echoing the complex nature of any romantic relationship.
Once dressed and upright, the push and pull begins. They try to walk but bump shoulders, ramming harder and harder until it's part sexual act, part holding each other back. The inevitable resentment has arrived, and Couvreur and Duman are left screaming into the air in frustration. But - and it's a big but - they still love each other, so what next?
The highs and lows of love are nicely observed here, but Anchor operates solely on one level, which feels like a missed opportunity. It's not until the lovers briefly cling onto each other as if their lives depended on it, that any kind of emotional resonance arrives.
Seeing Dance - David Mead
“What is love?” a voice asks as the beginning of Anchor. “It can burn you… It can consume you.” We all have our own answers too. What is undoubtedly true, as the voice continues, is that love is a “strange, material, abstract force.” In some wise advice it suggests, “Where we go wrong is in trying to tame it.”
The idea that, “Love is like a bird” is the cue for some coo-ing dove like sounds. It’s also the start of a wonderfully accurate probing into the subject as choreographers and performers Elsa Couvreur and Mehdi Duman open the door on their relationship, playfully and with an always light-touch dig into their wants and needs.
The opening sets the tone. With both of them only in black underwear, he drags her, cave-man style, across the floor, through scattered discarded clothing, to the strains of ‘Only You’, before roles are reversed. We’re not told how we got here, but it doesn’t take much imagination.
When they dress, there’s a lot of pushing and pulling. They walk towards each other and dodge unsuccessfully. It’s love. A situation they are in but cannot escape from. However hard they may try, or at least think they try, they are anchored to each other.
There are references to pleasures and frustrations, and cats and dogs. There’s a little bit of audience participation. Personalities shine through. It’s all done with a smile and a sense of fun that you cannot help but to fall for.
There are love songs aplenty. One well done scene sees them swap in and out of different songs, using the words as a sort of discussion. “I will always love you,” sings one, very badly (deliberately) but with so much enthusiasm you believe fully.
Of course, there are frustrations and arguments too, the latter complete with pointy fingers. And they are often arguments about nothing really. “I love you more,” says one. “No, I love you more,” insists the other. Ah, love. Not always easy, you see. You just can’t help but recognise the situations and see yourself in it all.
Do you remember first meetings? The soundtrack includes a lovely recording of what sounds like a first meeting in a café, somewhere, the pair figuratively feeling each other out. It is very theatrical but there’s some quality dance in Anchor too, but again all done with that tongue firmly in that cheek.
It ends with the audience left alone to the strains of a cover of Elvis Presley’s ‘Can’t help falling in love’. It is a quite superb idea that allows a moment of reflection. Except that it’s not quite the end, because Couvreur and Duman have a surprise in store. Let’s just say it involves orange dinosaurs. Hilarious.
I smiled from start to finish, and was still doing so an hour later. “I can’t help falling in love with you” go the words of the song. And I defy anyone not to fall in love with Anchor, and the delightful Couvreur and Duman.
The Sensemaker and Drop the Gogo, ZOO Charteris
The Scotsman - Kelly Apter
Arriving in her smart skirt and blouse, Elsa Couvreur looks interview-ready and eager to please. But frustration builds as time and again she’s told by a disembodied voice that it will be her turn soon, and in the meantime, here’s some wait music.
We’ve all been there, hanging on the phone, driven mad by the repetitive tune – but few use their time so inventively. Lip-synching in different languages at speed, Couvreur delivers cinematic lines (including a great quote from Trainspotting), each accompanied by fast-paced hand-gestures. When she eventually gets the chance to sell herself, Couvreur is presented with a series of tick-box, yes and no questions, that do nothing to elicit her true personality. We feel her pain – and ultimate redemptive joy – as she chooses another path.
Swiss company Woman’s Move clearly has something to say about work, because from The Sensemaker we move to Drop the Gogo, a completely different yet complementary piece. How we choose to spend our time, especially during the hours of work is the focus here too. Six black plinths sit empty and expectant, until one by one, a dancer slides out from inside and stands up. Dressed for the nightclub, they quickly pick up the beat and start to dance. Their moves are confident, fast, glorious to watch – like dancers in a slick video. But it’s clear all is not as it seems; they pose for the camera but are these people dancing for their own pleasure, or for ours? Reaching inside the plinth, they pull out uniforms and tools for copious trades, from plumber to doctor to police officer. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” asks a voice. The answer is left hanging in the air.
Review: The Sensemaker and Drop the Gogo by Woman's Move
Fest Mag - Katharine Kavanagh
Contemporary dance isn't widely known for its cool credentials, nor for its comedy. This double bill from millennial Swiss choreographer Elsa Couvreur is on the path to change all that.
In The Sensemaker she performs an amusing and thought-provoking duet with a recorded voice, in a dramatic world where waiting on an automated telephone call is equated with sitting in an actual waiting room. Couvreur's smart outfit suggests a job interview, perhaps, and our attention is drawn to micro-movements – blinks and swallows and muscle twitches. When asked to leave a message, Couvreur lipsyncs to a diverse variety of multilingual broadcasts, each accompanied by the same set of gestures that, impressively, make sense in every context. Some segments of more traditional modern dance choreography entertain, but are the least interesting parts.
Drop the Gogo ups the ante even further. A team of six podium dancers bring Couvreur's metamodern music video creation to life with distinct personalities and glittering nightclub fashion. The show is a high energy blast of information overload. All the dance styles, all the career options, all the social media snaps stand in for the overwhelming excess of the digital environment. The piece is exceedingly current, layering fun and shimmer over networks of hairline fractures that threaten to crash.
In both pieces, choreography is combined with visual theatre elements to create an entertaining and surprising hour.
The Sensemaker and Drop the Gogo
Edinburgh 49+3 - Steve Griffin
“Slick, fun and packed with charisma”
Often contemporary dance can come across as very abstract and inaccessible to normal people. Narratives or themes can be lost in conceptual musings, and it becomes hard for audiences to connect with the action on stage. With this double-bill, however, Swiss company Woman’s Move are presenting work that is more down-to earth – where dancers are people in situations we can all relate to – and the result is enjoyable and engaging.
First up is solo piece The Sensemaker, which sees dancer and choreographer Elsa Couvreur arriving on stage dressed and ready for a job interview, only to be greeted by a ringing phone and a disembodied voice giving her instructions. The tension is palpable through the awkward waiting and uncertainty, though frustration soon builds as the repetition of the automated voice continues. Throughout this sequence there are several comic moments when progress through ‘the system’ is made, only for it to be undermined later, and Couvreur’s facial expressions communicate all we need to know. It’s a fun and simple piece, with a charming interlude to set up the next.
In contrast, Drop the Gogo features six dancers performing an energetic and upbeat routine, where they seamlessly drop in and out of cannon, unison and extended motifs as befits their personalities. There’s a playful, childish element to the piece, highlighted by the costumes and roles each dancer takes on when reliving what they wanted to be when they grew up – something we might all cringe at now. Overall, it’s slick, fun and packed with charisma.
A loose theme of career and expectation threads the two works together, yet the playful irreverence of the choreography shows that this is a company not too concerned with following convention and who are determined to have fun in their own way. Throughout both pieces there’s just enough comprehension to follow what’s going on, though the overall creativity and mood is what comes across most clearly. This isn’t stuffy or stuck-up dance you need to labour through.
Overall, The Sensemaker and Drop the Gogo as a double-bill is fun show that’s full of charm, and well worth watching as your “something different” choice this year. It also once again strengthens ZOO’s leading position as the destination for contemporary dance at the Fringe. Dance fans, please go and check out this show and more of ZOO’s programme, I’ve yet to be disappointed by anything they present.
BE Festival – “Europe in the Midlands”
Plays to See - International Theatre Reviews (Alexandra Portmann)
Article about BE Festival citing "The Sensemaker"
"Elsa Couvreur from Woman’s Move interacts with a robotic voice on stage and therefore ironically negotiates the feeling of being “on hold” in European bureaucracy in “The Sensemaker”"
BREVIEW: BE FESTIVAL …Wednesday 04.07.17
Birmingham Review (Paul Gallear)
Article about BE Festival citing "The Sensemaker"
"The Sensemaker by Woman’s Move of Switzerland is the first piece – the story of one woman (played by Elsa Couvreur) waiting for human interaction from an automated phone message and her increasing frustrations, bringing to my mind the increasing role technology plays in our lives and the way in which bureaucracy is perceived. The dancing, mixed with elements of mime and sign language, builds with increasing frenzy and keeps the audience and myself hooked.
The spoken word/singing is no less impressive, combining a bewildering array of languages and sources such as Jethro Tull, Rammstein, Nicki Minaj, yodelling, and Eurovision, all with the constant of Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’ bursting through exuberantly at the crescendo. It is an excellent performance, a funny and triumphant start to the evening that leaves me hopeful of a great night."
BE Festival review – ‘an exciting showcase for European artists’
The Stage (Dave Fargnoli)
Article about BE Festival citing "The Sensemaker"
"Elsa Couvreur’s simple but sophisticated solo performance The Sensemaker (★★★★) sees her battling frustration as she is kept interminably on hold at the mercy of an exasperating automated voice.
As a tinny – but somehow still glorious – muzak version of Beethoven’s ninth symphony plays on a loop, she rehearses a sequence of simple gestures. Then her call is unexpectedly answered, and the soundtrack lurches into a rapid collage of words and music in multiple languages, chopping bewilderingly from French commercials, to German metal, to Jake Gyllenhaal discussing Smurf reproduction.
A warm and skilful performer, Couvreur conveys much with wry glances and apologetic shrugs, slowing and accelerating her mimes to fit the rhythms of the scrambled text. Her determination to express herself amidst the sensory overload is immediately relatable, an ideal metaphor for our interconnected world, and an absorbing highlight in this diverse and engaging festival."
BE Festival 2017 Blog: Crossing Borders
Birmingham What's On
Article about BE Festival citing "The Sensemaker"
"A woman enters a waiting room, dressed for an interview. She’s quiet, open but not pushy, and her smile – broad but polite and without teeth – has been carefully practised to impress confidence and enthusiasm, though not too much. She stands, puts down her bag, picks it up again, sits and stands, fidgeting. Eventually a phone rings and is answered, only for an automated message to kick in telling her to wait some more.
In The Sensemaker, Woman’s Move masterfully show us how even the most minimalist, one-woman show is capable of eliciting an immediate and powerful reaction, banking on a familiar set-up to stir cringe-inducing memories. Which of us hasn’t been in a situation like this before? Our stomachs lurch in dread anticipation of the interview ahead.
Except in this case, our protagonist never actually gets through to a human being – instead proving her “patience”, “motivation” and “determination” by sitting through endless tinny rounds of “Ode to Joy”, broken up occasionally by the robotic, pre-recorded voice. So now in place of interview anxiety, we’re experiencing the exasperation of trying to deal with large, understaffed, bureaucratic institutions. In the UK, it might be HMRC, the Home Office or benefits helplines, but as the synopsis suggests, you’ll find similar systems operating throughout the EU.
The Sensemaker gently mocks the ridiculous hoops we’re expected to jump through just to get by in 21st century societies, and picks up on what can often feel like deliberate attempts to trip us up or put us off. After finding herself bored enough to start dancing along to the hold music, the woman is informed that she’s being recorded for training and improvement purposes. Later, she’s asked a series of probing, personal and entirely irrelevant questions, before being asked to demonstrate her drive and the soft skills she’s laid claim to without any clear indication of how she’s supposed to do so.
When the inevitable finally happens and the call is ended due to an error on the unnamed organisation’s part, she must choose whether to call back and go through the entire rigmarole again, or decide it isn’t worth the hassle.
A hilariously, excruciatingly relatable look at the fears and frustrations of modern life."
Euro-visions - BE Festival
Bum on a Seat (William Stafford)
Article about BE Festival citing "The Sensemaker"
"First up is THE SENSEMAKER – an absurdist piece from Swiss company, Woman’s Move. A young woman, smartly dressed, enters. It’s a job interview situation, perhaps. A disembodied, automated voice instructs her to wait; we recognise its speech patterns from so-called ‘customer service’. An electronic version of Beethoven’s Ode To Joy play on a loop. The young woman waits and reacts… At last, it’s her turn and she launches into a dazzling display, lip-synching a range of voices in a range of languages, including a clip of Ewan McGregor having a rant in Trainspotting. She accompanies the words with a tight and repetitive sequence of gestures. It’s quite hypnotic to behold. This young woman is an expressive and skilful comedian. She is put on hold again, then required to clap Yes or No answers to a series of increasingly bizarre and intrusive questions. Ultimately, inevitably, it all goes wrong, as these interactions often do. Accessible, relatable, charming and funny, this piece highlights the frustrations of our interactions with technology and the unsatisfactory nature of the dehumanised versions of themselves organisations present to the world. I loved it."
BE FESTIVAL: Wednesday – Birmingham REP
The Reviews Hub
Article about BE Festival citing "The Sensemaker"
"The Sensemaker (Woman’s Move, Switzerland) opens with an attractive young woman, soberly but expensively attired. Is she waiting for an interview?
A telephone – an old school proper one that can be satisfyingly slammed down, starts ringing with increasing, disembodied menace. She becomes drawn into a dysfunctional and increasingly psychotic call-centre matrix of recorded replies and ‘please hold’ muzak interlude menu options. Her obvious option is to walk away – but curiosity is a catalyst few can resist.
The conceit of this shared, ubiquitous experience is taken to extreme abstraction. She becomes possessed by a manic mime synchronised sequence of cable/radio-channel skipping hysteria. Random multi-lingual snatches include Trainspotting Rent-boy’s rant about the Scots’ alleged, supine surrender to the bastard English. The multi-lingual audience appreciates many more.
Superficially, a caustic satire of the vacuous faux sincerity of out-sourced call centre ennui, there develops a more sinister theme of data-trawling. The electronica banal emasculation of Ode To Joy becomes an odour of despair. An homage to Kubrick’s Clockwork Orange does not escape notice, likewise the irony of it being the official EU anthem. Ingenious, subversive and scurrilous, this Swiss role reversal surreality suggests Harry Lime will need to update/delete his put-down cuckoo-clock trope. Seems we can never hang-up on the inner-space dystopian nightmare hang-ups of J.G. Ballard/Philip K. Dick.
BE Festival – Wednesday Birmingham Rep
Behind the arras (Elizabeth Halpin)
Article about BE Festival citing "The Sensemaker"
"The first performance of the evening hailed from Switzerland with Woman’s Move’s The Sensemaker. This single handed piece gave us an interpretation of what it means to fit into corporate standards. The setting was strikingly simple and as usual, an elaborate set was not needed as the piece spoke for itself. We saw a woman enter dressed in formal office attire, with an uncomfortable composure. A computerised voice-over was used that sounded office answering machines with hold music and standard ‘thank you for your patience’ messages. While listening to the sounds of the machine with us, the woman became more and more impatient as the wait went on. The woman repeated the same physical actions, to different lines cut from television shows, films and songs. The piece showed us the ways in which people can interpret our actions and words and highlighted the feelings we get when we are not listened to. The Sensemaker was an interesting display of dance, physical theatre and spoken word."
Quand Beethoven et des paillettes s’invitent à l’Abri
R.E.E.L. (Catherine Rohrbach)
Article about The Sensemaker and Drop the Gogo.
"Comme à leur habitude, Woman’s Move, créé en 2012 par Iona D’Annunzio, Elsa Couvreur et Margaux Monetti, nous offre des productions qui semblent légères au début mais qui nous font vite nous questionner sur l’influence de la société. Les membres de la troupe ont bien compris comment utiliser leurs corps pour faire passer un message tout en évitant le cliché du danseur trop abstrait et élitiste."
Podcast sur Radio Cité
"Le Grand Invité"
"La peur de l'autre dans une chorégraphie" with Elsa Couvreur, choreographer, at the program of Printemps Carougeois with "Even Raël would agree", presented by Gilles Soulhac.
Cie Woman's Move - Elsa Couvreur, une chorégraphe narrative
Vivre Carouge, avril-mai 2016 - (Frédéric Montanya)
Article about Even Raël Would Agree at Printemps Carougeois
"La pièce chorégraphique est assez mobile, tant par sa structure qui laisse une importante part à l'improvisation et à la participation du public que par l'espace (Halles de la Fonderie ou Place du Marché) sur lequel elle peut s'interpréter."
The Wire, août 2014 (Robert Barry)
Article about Festival Electron 2014 citing Even Raël Would Agree
Highlighted by us.
"'For me, however, the highlights were in the gaps between the hedonism: Elsa Couvreur's dance piece Even Raël Would Agree, equal parts flash mob and febrile ritual."
Electron Festival Review
Article about Festival Electron 2014 citing Even Raël Would Agree
'you might suddenly come across a troupe of contemporary dancers performing some kind of Thriller onspeedinspired flashmob performance entited “Even Rael would Agree”'
Les cultures électroniques ont attiré 19 000 festivaliers
"11e édition record pour Electron ce week-end" (AV/ATS) La Tribune de Genève
Article about Festival Electron 2014 citing Even Raël Would Agree