“Time Out of Joint”, Jule Flierl ©Caroline Böttcher

Splitting Roles

“Time Out of Joint” is a concept and choreography from Jule Flierl and colleagues, targeting the perception of female* politicians speech. Premiering 8 March 2023, International Women’s Day, at Sophiensæle.

Walking in to “Time Out of Joint”, it’s hard not to feel something a little bit ‘off’. The stage seems oddly-composed: replete with six microphones in different constellations, a small square raised platform in the centre, and an audience in traverse waving and hollering at each other across the stage. A square lighting rig sits at a strange tilt above the platform, as though offering a weird echo of what lies beneath. Classical music begins, and swells, as we wait for the eventual opening.

“Ich liebe Anfänge” (“I love beginnings”) is the first text sarcastically uttered by dancer/choreographer Maria Walser. But not before the dancer has performed an elongated and exaggerated series of jerky, carefully-choreographed ‘almost-gestures’, as though about to speak and yet somehow unable. Dressed in a pink pantsuit, the dancer looks at us occasionally as though silently pleading to break a trap. The effect is a mix of exasperation and anticipation, with a cartoony quality, exaggerated by an eventual controlled tumble from the seating bank to the stage.

“Time Out of Joint” takes as its field of research the nature of political speech by female* politicians. Following this deconstructive beginning and the entry of the three other performers Parvathi R., Mariagiulia Serantoni, and Sonya Levin, small bursts of speech (“noisy musical speeches”) are developed through audio and their own words, to the backing of a metronome (sound: Edka Jarząb). Eventually, this momentum is arrested by the famous “The lady’s not for turning” speech of Margaret Thatcher as she defended her mass free market transformations to the British economy in 1980. At this point, the performance hits a snag – as one dancer poses the question of the audience in the Conservative Party Conference “were they laughing with her? Or were they laughing at her?”

The performers then break into their own individual speeches, with a rousing turn from Parvathi R. and finishing with a mix of eroticism and audience participation. Yet questions remain about the deconstructive approach of “Time Out of Joint”. Was there some discord as a result of the subject of investigation creating particular agonisms, or the result of presenting sensitive material to an audience?

The format of the piece allows for different positions inside the collaboration – indeed, as several sit around the square table and coolly gaze on the performance of the other, it is not always possible to discern what common ground has been found. These moments sit together with the other ‘ruptures’ of “Time Out of Joint”, suggesting metaphors of a particular fragmentation, disconnection, or split. These moments of discord sit against the moments of unison (such as certain almost-synchronised patterns, or the relationship of the costumes to each other) and create a palette of gestures and utterances that leave unsettling gaps and ambiguities. Here the demand for synonymity between solidarity and unison is rejected, and, as with the quoted speech of female* politicians, or the speeches spoken by the dancers themselves (and as for Hamlet, from who’s famous line the title of the work is drawn), the role we are cast in is not the one that we necessarily should play.

This marks “Time Out of Joint” as an interesting and complex celebration of the act of female* politicians speech as resistance against roles and produces reality-splitting outcomes, but it’s one that comes – no doubt – with a deal of discomfort for the audience.

“Time Out of Joint” by Jule Flierl premiered at Sophiensæle on 8 March 2023 with shows until 11 March 2023.

Concept, Choreography Jule Flierl Choreography, Performance Sonya Levin, Parvathi R., Maria Walser, Mariagiulia Serantoni Dramaturgy Luise Meier Sound, Research Edka Jarząb Stage design Vera Pulido Light Design Sandra E. Blatterer Costumes Giulia Paolucci Production Alexandra Wellensiek