Stopgap’s new touring work ‘The Enormous Room’ reflects on the surreal aspects of loss

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Stopgap Dance Company’s new touring production The Enormous Room, premieres at Sadler’s Wells Lilian Baylis Studio on 2 and 3 March 2017.

Dramatic photo of dancers Christian Brinklow and Hannah Sampson posing on a pink table against a blue background

Christian Brinklow and Hannah Sampson in The Enormous Room by Stopgap Dance Company. Photo by Chris Parkes

Featuring renowned disabled dancer David Toole in a central role, The Enormous Room focuses on the complex but poignant relationship between a father and daughter during a time of grief.

Dave’s wife Jackie has died, but he still sees her everywhere. She is lying in his bed, sitting at the kitchen table and laughing with their daughter Sam. Dave has withdrawn into the living room unable to let his memories go, but going is all that Sam can think about…

David Toole’s extensive body of work includes a prominent solo in the 2012 Paralympic Opening Ceremony and the landmark 2004 film from DV8, The Cost Of Living. Both powerful and influential as performer and dancer, David Toole has worked with Stopgap Dance Company for over ten years and now in The Enormous Room, utilises his acclaimed physical and dramatic skills to bring the character of Dave to life.

Sam is played by Hannah Sampson, a young dancer with Down’s syndrome who has received 10 years of professional training with Stopgap Dance Company. The intricate interactions between the experienced David Toole and talented newcomer Sampson are set to intrigue.

They are joined by non-disabled dancers Meritxell Checa, dancer and collaborator with celebrated French choreographer Philippe Decoufle and Amy Butler, the rehearsal director of Chotto Desh by Akram Khan, who take the roles of Jackie as Dave’s wife and Sam’s mother respectively.

Lucy Bennett, Stopgap’s Artistic Director and the choreographer for The Enormous Room chose to have two performers play Jackie to illustrate the subjective nature of memory.

The Cambodian wheelchair dancer Nadenh Poan plays Chock, a Puck-like presence, who orchestrates the collision between this world and the next. Christian Brinklow plays the role of Tom, who appears intermittently to offer his friend Sam a chance to escape sadness.

The lighting design by Chahine Yavrovan and the theatre design by Anna Jones of Curious Space, jointly evoke a dream-like atmosphere, portraying the surreal experiences that people go through during bereavement.

Striking image of David Toole pictured inside a cupboard with a pink tv on a shelf above his head

Stopgap present Dave Toole in The Enormous Room. Photo by Chris Parkes

Artistic Director Lucy Bennett says: ‘The Enormous Room was devised from scratch with cast and collaborators such as Lou Cope the dramaturge, who has worked with artists like Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and more recently on Garry Clarke’s Coal, which just won the UK Theatre Award.

During our research phase, we also received workshops from various artists such as theatre-maker Chris Thorpe (Unlimited Theatre based at West Yorkshire Playhouse) and the Czech choreographer Lenka Vagrenova (Winner of The Herald Angel Award).

The research included input from access workers who were in the studio supporting the disabled dancers. The production has engaged with a real diversity in terms of age, ethnicity, social and cultural backgrounds. Each individual contributed to how sensitively we approached this universal human experience.’

David Toole says: ‘Lucy is a very collaborative artist and I always enjoy working with her. She is a pioneering inclusive choreographer and knows how to make the most of a diverse team. How she has created a training programme for disabled dancers like Hannah is impressive too. It has taken about 18 months to make The Enormous Room and I am looking forward to presenting this work to audiences.’

The Enormous Room will undertake a major tour this spring. Dates start at Surrey University on Feb 28 then Sadler’s Wells, Lilian Baylis Theatre on March 2 and 3. The Enormous Room continues to tour throughout March, with Autumn dates to be added. Please click on this link to Stopgap’s website for further details.