Bethany Kingsley-Garner, Sophie Martin and Victor Zarallo in Helen Pickett’s The Room.
DANCE TABS, By Bruce Marriott
US-based Helen Pickett is little known in the UK and won me over with her The Room in the first minute – probably one of the most intriguing dramatic starts to a piece I’ve seen in years and it really drew me in. The walls of the room are defined by light on the stage floor and the only furniture a contemporary sofa. Inspired by Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit it starts with a turquoise-suited man and a demon/valet character, there to drive the action forward. After a short while a woman in red walks in, (‘wife or lover’ you think), and the valet disappears for a while, returning with a second woman in green, (‘lover or wife’ you think), perfunctorily carried in as if a rolled-up rug. Four disparate and unhappy characters assembled to the majestic strains of Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto No 1.My goodness – she’s thought about this and how to grab the audience, I thought. Pickett’s pointe-based movement is angular, jerky and theatrical. Nobody ends happy as they shed their clothes, as if trying to find self-truth, and come together in abandoned, spirited duets. It ends after 8 minutes with a climax of movement as if the room is set to explode with unhappiness – and the lights go out. You are desperate to know what happens, to know the proper backstory and for there to be lots more acts. I gather the piece is going to be extended for Atlanta Ballet – lucky them. And I hope lucky us at some point as somebody hires Pickett to do a much longer piece. I love her sense of theatricality and think it would run well with our love of drama and dance.
Edinburgh Festival Reviews
We even glimpsed the Lesser Spotted Female Choreographer – often feared extinct in Britain –… American Helen Pickett appeared as a significant artist who should have been here long before now. Her quartet The Room, inspired by Huis Clos (Sartre’s “hell is other people” drama), unfolds to the impassioned scritch of Bruch’s violin concerto, and I longed for more.
-David Jays, The Sunday Times
Such strange interplays between vulnerability and passion continue to resonate in what, for me, remained the highlight of the showcase: Helen Pickett’s The Room… Gorgeous subtleties – a cheek momentarily leant against a shoulder, a hand lingering a second longer than necessary on a thigh – strike us with surprising force.
-Devawn Wilkinson, ayoungertheatre.com
I couldn’t take my eyes off Helen Pickett’s The Room for a second, lest I miss the ever-changing dynamics of three tortured souls shut in a room by their keeper.
-Kelly Apter, Dance Odysseys
…the ferment of toxic irritation that seethes around the two couples in Helen Pickett’s The Room is a familiar kind of domestic hell. I like Pickett’s fiercely declamatory body language, as well as her ironic use of Max Bruch’s First Violin Concerto.
-Judith Mackrell, The Guardian