Rain Pours Like Coffee Drops, VAULT Festival

by Diana Miranda

Amidst VAULT Festival’s craziness, The Motion Packs’ movement-led work casts a contemplative spell, causing reflection on the effects of having obsessive, work-driven lives. This one-man physical theatre piece brews slowly, with contemporary dance accompanied by a soundscape combining poetic audio clips, instrumental scores led by the eerie resonance of a piano, and calming sounds of nature. The show has English and Welsh versions, and I experienced it in the latter. While the Cavern’s acoustics and a poorly-equalised volume make it difficult to understand the poetry, the dreamlike soundscape and a soft, unhurried voice create a comforting aural experience, even for non-Welsh-speakers.

The production also offers a comfort beyond the show itself. Dressed in a business suit, Billy Maxwell Taylor welcomes audiences with a cup of coffee or tea and invites us to relax. Once the performance ends, he offers complementary material to extend the experience. Scripts of the translated poems, and a list of well-being questions that the company reflected upon during the devising process, prompt audiences to deepen their relationship to the work. Billed as a fifty-minute show, it actually lasts forty and allocates the extra ten minutes for audiences to use as we please, preventing a hard launch back into the busy world outside the space.

The choreography is unrushed all the way through, which allows time to process the metaphorical nature of the piece and let the movements sink in. After a slightly self-conscious welcome, Maxwell Taylor surprises us as a performer with outstanding magnetism and a choreography that starts with the subtlest gestures and builds up to elongated movements while he moves around the whole stage. Agile and strong, his physical performance is completely grounded, and mindful of the space and his body language. A series of quick movements convey the nature of frenzy-driven activities, like when he builds a miniature city with little, wooden building blocks. The sequence in the chair is hard to forget – a limited space that’s nonetheless infused with great energy as we see Maxwell Taylor fight against his own body, a menacing hand pulling him against his will. In contrast, sections of paused, large gestures suggest moments of ease, and reprise the coffee as a metaphor for stillness. Little by little, the piece’s tone changes and traces a path towards peacefulness. Rain Pours Like Coffee Drops certainly offers a coffee break for frantic theatregoers running around Leake Street Arches this season.

Rain Pours Like Coffee Drops runs through 5 February.

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