WTF WEDNESDAY: Two Destination Language – DECLINING SOLO – The Lowry, Salford

Evocative, warm and deeply personal, DECLINING SOLO is a complex and tender piece about the relationship between father and daughter

When The Lowry launched their PAY WHAT YOU DECIDE (PWYD) programme earlier this year, they promised a series of ‘cutting-edge, contemporary shows to appeal to the creatively curious’. Now in its third season, the innovative scheme continues to deliver on that promise, pushing the boundaries and challenging the norm with genre-bending shows like Two Destination Language’s DECLINING SOLO.

Combining text with choreography, video and specially commissioned music, DECLINING SOLO is a complex and tender piece about the relationship between father and daughter. Devised and performed by Two Destination Language’s Katherina Radeva and Alister Lownie, the 60 minute piece is a spiritual sequel to their 2014 offering NEAR GONE and focuses on Radeva’s early life in Bulgaria and her relationship with her increasingly withdrawn father.

Evocative, warm and deeply personal, DECLINING SOLO opens with Radeva unfurling long pieces of white paper which hang from the ceiling. Turning to address the audience directly, Radeva and Lownie alternate in narration, sharing stories of communism, war, merriment and family as Radeva shapes a world from paper, ripping, twisting and folding the pieces to create her childhood home, her father’s garage, a nightclub and even a folk festival.

Like Two Destination Language’s previous work, DECLINING SOLO is a visually striking piece, using all the senses to draw you in. Home movies are projected onto the paper set as the aroma of roasting peppers fills the air and Bulgarian folk music plays in the background, all combining to conjure up a sense of Radeva’s past and a father she can no longer reach.

Brief dance passages are also used to break up the narration, with Radeva and Lownie – who is dressed in an elaborate, symbolically-charged costume – breaking from the story to perform traditional Balkan steps to Tim Blazdell’s synth-heavy score.

Yet despite all of this, the performance still has a raw, unfinished edge to it. Radeva herself describes the piece as a “messy portrait” and it’s clear from her narration that this was not an easy experience for her, as she desperately tries to piece together fragments from her piece before they slip through her fingers.

That said, there is plenty to like about this multi-layered show and despite it being a deeply personal piece, the universal longing for home is something we all can relate to. A beautiful and brave piece steeped in memories and nostalgia.

4 out of 5 stars

DECLINING SOLO by Two Destination Language performed at The Lowry on 8 November 2017 as part of the WTF WEDNESDAY series.