‘That’s It’ – Sandman | Manipulate 2015
What do you get if you cross a jellyfish with a Hitchcock screen siren? Sabine Molenaar, aka Sandman, is the answer. Opening Manipulate's Norwich-based programme (the festival takes place at venues across Scotland too), Molenaar performs her extraordinary solo piece ‘That’s It’, in which she morphs into disturbing and beguiling characters through her object and body manipulations.
Lights first come up on a knot of limbs twisted into a flame, toes pointing skywards. It takes a moment to connect the dots between where a thigh ends and a leg begins. Framing the curiously animated toes is a red clothed table bearing a lone bonsai tree. The toes seem both interested in the tree and keen to escape from their caging limbs. If you tear your confused eyes away from the body, you realise there is also a dressing up box of objects on stage. A blue dress, two copper coloured wigs, an old fashioned microphone and a giant lampshade all hang suspended and waiting.
The body quickly finds a yellow slip of fabric to slide into. Sabine appears, beautiful in yellow dress, a black shoe in hand. Her limbs are controlled by some outside force, probably the deep whirring groan of the turbine or engine that fills the air, as legs click forwards, disconnected from torso or feet. A cruel marionettist seems to control her painful movements, forcing her to arch and dance into gravity defying poses. She sips an invisible drink from the shoe.
Bit by bit, Sabine encounters her objects with strange and comic effect. The lampshade offers itself as a seat before sucking her in, bottom first. She scrambles robotically to escape. Sliding into the suspended blue dress she hangs, before breaking herself free to twirl dreamily through the space. The music changes to offbeat music hall. Strings of beads attack her neck and momentarily sever control of her head. A beast emerges from her throat as a low, bizarre rumble. This beast returns later as Sabine’s jutted body stands bathed in a costume of shimmering red. The new creature, part mermaid, part Jessica Rabbit, serenades us and the microphone with an otherworldly aria. Then the beast emerges again, croaking and posing its hips from side to side. It’s really quite funny and it breaks the spell of the siren’s call.
An old lady, a delicate girl, a puppet, a monster – Sabine’s characters all take form through her use of objects and dance. She knows comedy and yet haunts us with her crackling, thumping sound choices. After a standing ovation for the sold out show, I sit silently for some time to absorb the beauty and excellence I’ve just seen. What a start to the festival. Beg, borrow or steal to see this treat of a performance.