Manchester Evening News on Phantom Limb

Phantom Limb

Manchester Evening News, November 2002

A joint production between the Canadian company Theatre Gargantua and our own 2021 Performance, Phantom Limb is often perplexing but also full of passion.

It began life when 2021’s artistic director Spencer Hazel was invited to Toronto by Gargantua’s artistic director Jackie P.A. Thomas to work as a movement consultant on Gargantua’s acclaimed physical music theatre cycle The Exit Room.

That involvement turned into a full-blooded collaboration between the two companies on this work, premiered at the Exchange’s Studio Theatre last night before heading out on a major national tour. Performed by a six-strong troupe and with pre-recorded contributions from the gifted Canadian singer and songwriter Jane Siberry, as well as Cowboy Junkie’s mainman Michael Timmins, it’s a strange, challenging and kaleidoscopic work.

Steadfastly ignoring any distinction between musical theatre, dance and poetry, while incorporating sound tapes and film, it’s as much of a mood-piece as anything, even though it has a narrative strand based on the life and work of John Mackie.

Fragments of his written work overlap with the performer’s supposed memories of him.

Like most shared memories, details tend to be hazy or even contradictory. Above all, this is a work full of affection and also some pain, with the anguish of loss humorously offset by memories of physical pain, through a recurring motif of broken limbs.

Phantom Limb is not an easy work to fully grasp, but it certainly manages to cram all sorts of provocative ideas into an hour.