Love Songs – Project Arts Centre – Review
Dance: 14-17 December 2022
This is a new work by Philip Connaughton which explores various themes, such as performance, love and grief. This is done through a number of different means, with songs, dance and short theatrical/ comedy sketches, showing that Connaughton continues to blossom as an all-round entertainer and not just a dance artist.
As the audience enters the space, a number of dancers are already on stage. They move slowly backwards and forwards, wearing white sequin tops and black dresses and wigs. The dancers are all shapes and sizes, with the larger male dancers looking quite unusual.
When the piece starts in earnest, we are introduced to the other star of the production; Helen Jordan. As Philip describes her, she is a ‘hoofer’. A singer/ dancer who has been in constant work throughout the years at all levels of the entertainment business. She once sang at the Eurovision and almost met Sinatra! She is someone that has lived for the stage and is addicted to the drug of performance. She sings a song with a touch of Las Vegas in the air, as her team of dancers perform by her side. A banner drops from the ceiling, giving the audience the lyrics, allowing us to sing along!
Another aspect of the production is that Philip tells the audience about the death of his mother and his sense of grief at her loss. As we know from one of Connaughton’s previous works Assisted Solo, Philip was one of the main carers for his mother while she lived with Dementia. He speaks briefly about the void left in his life by her death.
The final element of this production is Philip’s search for love. He finds something approaching it from an AI chatbot called Jack. Philip interacts with this device, which seems to be his perfect partner, compassionate and willing to listen to him.
Philip Connaughton is probably best known to many for his work with THISISPOPBABY and specifically Wake, which was one of the highlights of the Dublin Fringe Festival this year. In Wake, Connaughton showed his ability to sing and perform comedy sketches. Until recent years, he was mainly known as a dance artist, with a long history as a choreographer.
If you were to find a flaw in this work, it is that it has too many ideas. Philip’s work has become quite confessional and this is no different, with a variety of aspects of his personal life revealed. He exposes many of his inner demons on stage but does so with humour and compassion. Loss is always difficult to deal with and affects all aspects of your life, but the show must go on, as no doubt Helen would say. Philip Connaughton continues to evolve before us, and he does so in the limelight. This is a bright and vibrant show that explores much ground.
Creator and Director Philip Connaughton
Performed by Clare Adam, Philip Connaughton, Orla Dwyer, Helen Jordan, Anna Kaszuba, Isabella Oberlander, Fearghus Ó Conchúir, and Anderson de Souza.
Set Design by Molly O’Cathain
Costume Design by Emily Ní Bhroin
Lighting Design by Begoña Garcia
Sound Design by Luca Truffarelli
Hair and Make-Up by Leonard Daly
Dramaturg Philip McMahon
Stage Manager Marella Boschi
Production Manager Veronica Foo
Line Producer Lisa Nally
Producer Maura O’Keeffe
Production Photography Patricio Cassinoni
A new dance work by Company Philip Connaughton, in association with Once Off Productions, Project Arts Centre, and Cork Opera House.