Toni (Toni Main) stands on stage, bouncing on her toes slightly to set her head and shoulders wobbling, like a life-size bobblehead. She fixes a member of the audience in her gaze, graces them with a strange and non-committal smile, and then moves her attention to someone else. It's a piece of action that is drawn out slowly, forcing the audience to take this character in: to scrutinise her posture, hair, makeup and dress, looking for clues on which to base our understanding of this character.
We then meet Sara (Sara Di Segna) who, as a fast-speaking Mediterranean woman, is given a much shorter introduction. From her entrance, though, the action picks up, and a narrative beings to unfold through a series of abstract vignettes.
Speechless is a show about two women who, separated by barriers of language, personality, temperament and culture, find a way in which to collaborate as artists. It's a simple set-up, but one which suits the sparse and whimsical nature of the performance. Aside from a few post-structuralist musings on the nature of language and meaning – which weren't particularly profound, and have been done before – this show is simply about the arc of a working collaboration between two people.
Dancers obviously have a great capacity for physical communication – a large vocabulary of body language – and Main and Di Segna are able to find intriguing ways in which to tell this story. And although this is a highly unoriginal project – art about making art is thick on the ground – I would hesitate to call it unambitious: the personal and intimate is an important and undervalued aspect of the human condition, and one these artists (with the guidance of Georgina Capper) have taken care in exploring. But, unfortunately, this is a performance which demands too much indulgence from its audience, and offers too little in return, to work as strong, stand-alone art.