Image by Pippa Samaya
I Loved You and I Loved You. Reviews
★★★★: ‘Here is a new dance theatre production…and it’s something special…quirkily detailed dance. Including the most unselfconscious nude solo I’ve seen.’ – The Times
★★★★: ‘this captivating dance is a fascinating journey through this forgotten woman’s life.’ – Broadway Baby
★★★★: ‘I loved you and I loved you is a miniature gem.’ – The Observer
★★★★: ‘heart-felt new production…a warmly human piece‘ – Exeunt Magazine
The Times, Donald Hutera ****
This new dance-theatre production from the independent choreographer Sally Marie is something special. A key part of the Edinburgh Fringe’s Welsh dance strand, it was inspired by the life of Morfydd Owen.
Born in the Welsh Valleys in 1891, Owen was a gifted and prolific composer who died (under somewhat suspicious circumstances) at the age of 26. Marie has honoured her memory by creating an intimate, impressionistic and involving portrayal of the romantic entanglements of three highly accomplished, real-life individuals from an earlier era.
The piece is exceptionally well cast. Uncommonly thoughtful yet utterly dynamic, Faith Prendergast is the embodiment of music as Owen. Tiny but titanic, this dancer has greatness in her. As does Daniel Whiley as Owen’s troubled husband, Ernest Jones, a friend and biographer of Freud. His quirkily detailed dance, executed as Jones delivers a paper on the erotic possibilities of the anus (!), could be the most unselfconscious nude solo I’ve seen.
Karl Fargerlund-Brekke is Eliot Crawshay-Williams: military man turned politician, private secretary to Lloyd George and Churchill and the other love of Owen’s life. He may not possess his fellow dancers’ technical facility, but he shows a touching grasp of his role.
Made for her company, Sweetshop Revolution, Marie’s subtle show follows an episodic and even musical structure. Almost all of what we hear is Owen’s own work, either played live by the pianist Brian Ellsbury or sung with heart-piercing sweetness by Ellen Williams.
The dancers give strong, beautifully nuanced performances as complicated real-life characters. Although it’s unlikely the audience will know much about these characters, Marie is banking on our willingness to invest time and interest in them.
Her faith is justified. As a director she has a gentle, instinctual touch and whether playful or passionate, tender or dramatic, the dancing — devised by her and the cast — reveals something about who these people are.
The Observer. Luke Jennings ****
Sweetshop Revolution’s I Love You and I Loved You is another miniature gem. Choreographed by Sally Marie, it tells the odd, haunting story of the early 20th-century Welsh composer Morfydd Owen, to whose music the piece is set, and her unhappy marriage to the psychoanalyst Ernest Jones. Marie is a subtle dancemaker, capturing the emotional colour of a moment in the sweep of an arm or the pitch of a neck and shoulder, and she has fine interpreters in petite, square-cut Faith Prendergast, who dances Morfydd with confident musicality, and Daniel Whiley, who portrays the knotty, troubled Ernest. Whiley’s dancing, which includes a graphic solo illustrative of Ernest’s preoccupation with anal eroticism, is as fluent as it’s fearless, and Prendergast’s touching directness marks her out as a performer with a future.
23rd – 31st August 2015
Exuent Magazine ****
Faith Prendergast as welsh composer Morfydd Owen.
Made for her company Sweetshop Revolution, and presented in Edinburgh as part of a small strand of Welsh dance, this heart-felt new production from the choreographer and director Sally Marie could be called a chamber-sized period dance-drama. The inspiration for it was the life and music of Morfedd Owen, a gifted Welsh composer who died under somewhat suspicious circumstances in 1918 at the age of 26. The performance, which lasts just over an hour, is not at all biographically linear. Rather than make the real-life source material obvious, Marie opts for a more impressionistically oblique approach. She’s not interested in facts. What matters here are feelings.
Not that Marie wants to ignore the bare bones of Owen’s too-short life: her prolific artistry, possibly manic depressive nature and the complex relationships she had with Ernest Jones (a friend and biographer of Freud) and Eliot Crawshay-Williams (military man turned Liberal MP and private secretary to Lloyd George and Churchill). Owen married the first but probably loved the latter. In I Loved You and I Loved You Marie is trying to capture some essential truths about these three accomplished, fascinating people. What she’s come up with is a triangular romantic tragedy about love and creativity that’s marked by buoyantly lighter grace notes. I loved it.
Sitting easily somewhere between the narrative and the abstract, this is a warmly human piece about people who really lived, but in an era that was in many ways radically different from ours. This aura of an earlier, slower time is present from the first scene, with a woman (the dancer Faith Prendergast, cast as Owen) lying still on the floor, her body being sniffed by the man (Daniel Whiley as Jones) hovering over her. It’s anything but a slam-bang beginning, but it allows us to settle in as spectators while setting a tone for the ensuing series of solos, duets and trios. All the dancing is character-driven or, more accurately, music-led as a means of revealing who the people onstage are. The music is principally by Owen, as it should be, and is mainly played or sung live by the pianist/music director Brian Ellsbury and Ellen Williams, a vocalist of piercing clarity and sweetness.
Owen’s music was lyrical and emotive, and Marie’s small but exceptional cast respond to it beautifully. To say that she chose them well is an understatement. The show contains minimal spoken text, either in the form of direct address to the audience or the brief reading out of letters. Unlike her male colleagues Prendergast never utters a word, but then she doesn’t need to. Her tiny but titanic body and expressive face do all the ‘talking’ that’s necessary. This young woman has greatness in her. Whiley, too, is a real find, embodying Jones with a palpable sense of the man’s troubling undercurrents. Whiley has a nude solo that’s exemplary in its unself-conscious dedication to the motive behind it (as a means of illustrating Jones’ academic paper about the erotic potential of the anus). Karl Fargerlund-Brekke is no third wheel here, giving a just-right and touching portrayal of an intelligent man of modesty, ego, desire and regret.
I saw I Loved You and I Loved You when it was pretty much fresh out of the gate, prior to an extensive UK tour. There were still things to be worked out about it, but I think that’s what helped make my experience of it seem like such a charged discovery. Marie and the dancers were probably in a similar place. I look forward to seeing their work – vital, subtle, strong and grown-up – again as it develops and deepens.
LondonDance.com Rachel Elderkin
Sweetshop Revolution’s new work I Loved You and I Loved You tells the story of Morfydd Owen, a prolific but little known Welsh musician and composer who died at just 26. Directed by Sally Marie, I Loved You and I Loved You explores Morfydd’s relationships both with her husband, the psychoanalyst Dr Ernest Jones, and the man she yearned to love.
Three dancers portray the roles of Morfydd and her lovers and each full heartedly embodies their character. They are accompanied by the gorgeously pure voice of soprano Ellen Williams and pianist Brian Ellsbury and together, these performers bring Morfydd’s story, and music, to life. Through a combination of speech, song and movement her tale unravels, the occasional letter offering a personal and touching insight into her thoughts and emotions.
The petite Faith Prendergast is ideally suited to the role of Morfydd. She imbues her character with a youthful innocence that shimmers in the opening scenes under the attentions of her admirers, but which later slips into a sense of Morfydd’s distress and longing. She has a delightful way of using every inch of her partners’ bodies, no more so than in an early trio where, doll-like, she is repeatedly passed between the two men, her body rigid in a seated pose.
The duets that run throughout this piece beautifully capture the developing relationships between the three characters. In Morfydd’s meeting with Jones (Daniel Whiley) the two flirtatiously pass an apple between them, Jones holding it just out of her reach. It’s a charming scene with an underlying image of fatal temptation. It lies in contrast to a later duet with dancer Karl Fagerlund Brekke where, against a backdrop of Jones’ psychoanalytical ravings, Morfydd seeks solace in her lovers’ imaginary presence.
The staging throughout I Loved You and I Loved You is so finely tuned that each moment in this story has the space to take its place. Even the nude male solo, which could so easily become more for effect than purpose, is perfectly placed; a fitting image of Jones’ intense attachment to his work. Not one movement in this work is wasted, each has an element of its story to tell, an aspect of its character to reveal, and the dancers bring Morfydd’s tale to life with every step they take.
The last mournful song, sung with a tender sorrow and danced with raw emotion, offers an ideal closing note. You feel you understand Morfydd’s tragic story, so sensitively has this work been choreographed, each character been portrayed. In I Loved You and I Loved You Sweetshop Revolution have produced a work of beauty and quiet brilliance.
Broadway Baby ****
by Richard Beck on 26th August 2015
If Morfydd Owen had lived three weeks longer she would have been immortalised in the 27 Club. As it is she remains almost unknown outside of her native Wales Growing up in musical family she learned the piano and aged sixteen gave a performance of the Grieg piano concerto. After Cardiff University she gained a scholarship to the Royal Academy where her prizewinning record remains unequalled. Created an ARAM she was heralded as the potential Elgar of her day. With a further scholarship she developed her voice as a mezzo-soprano and in just over ten years of composing produced 180 works.
This captivating dance is a fascinating journey through this forgotten woman’s life.
In London she became a socialite, renowned for her engaging personality and beauty. Faithful to her Welsh roots as part of the Charing Cross Welsh Presbyterian Chapel she also was also part of the coterie surrounding D. H. Lawrence and Ezra Pound. As her close friendship with Eliot Crawshay-Williams developed she wrote, “I fear I have a passionate nature, and it is increasing – and I fear my power of resistance will soon fail”. He was 31, married and a Liberal MP. She was 19. Another lady’s resistance did fail, leading Eliot’s divorce and the end his political career. He went on to marry her which probably furthered the manic depression from which Morfydd increasingly suffered.
In 1917 with looming fears of being left on the shelf she married the the pioneering English voice of psychoanalysis and later Freud’s biographer the atheist Ernest Jones only six weeks after their first meeting. She enjoyed a brief honeymoon period before her musical output declined, she became tired of domesticity and the marriage became unhappy. Her death in 1918 remains controversial. Officially she died from delayed chloroform poisoning following an operation for acute appendicitis, itself carried out in strange circumstances.
It’s worth knowing all of this as I Loved You and I Loved You is a biographical contemplation. Sweetshop Revolution has had to be highly selective in choosing songs, scenes, readings and accompaniment from the wealth of material uncovered by Brian Ellsbury’s research into Morfydd Owen. He accompanies this production on the piano and soprano Ellen Williams who effortlessly renders the lyrical songs. The balance of this work may still not satisfy everyone. More songs and readings would make for a longer piece but the material is there.
Faith Prendergast, delicately portrays Morfydd’s first notes on the piano but is soon joined by her two men for an amusing scene at the fairground which visibly captures the rides and roundabouts. Darker days loom however. Karl Fargarlund-Brekke portrays an initially confident Eliot clearly enamoured of Morfydd yet frustrated and who ultimately fades through the consequences of his own actions. Eliot Daniel Whiley makes it easy to see why Morfydd would have fallen for him. Handsome and self-assured in public an agonised, writhing solo reminiscent of Munch’s ‘The Scream’ reveals inner turmoil while a second vividly illustrates his research paper ‘Anal-Erotic Character Traits’.
Conceived and directed by Sally Marie this captivating dance is a fascinating journey through this forgotten woman’s life. Perhaps I Loved You and I Loved You and the 100th anniversary of her death in 2018 will do something to reignite her reputation.
Cloud Dance Festival. Chantal Guevara.
The advance publicity for Sweetshop Revolution’s I Loved You And I Loved You stated that it explored the extremely talented Welsh composer Morfydd Owen and her love triangle with the man she married and the man she loved; someone later pointed out that the promotional photo was reminiscent of that for Dangerous Liaisons.
Director and choreographer Sally Marie kindly provided a detailed two-page biography of Morfydd Owen in the programme notes, which served as a synopsis for the piece, but such is the Edinburgh Fringe that there wasn’t time to read it before the show. If you’re lucky enough to catch I Loved You And I Loved You on its upcoming tour, please make sure you take the time to read the programme notes beforehand.
Sally Marie has worked extensively in dance theatre and physical theatre, and these two styles are used to journey through the narrative of I Loved You And I Loved You. Although Morfydd – performed by the remarkably tiny and beautiful dancer Faith Prendergast – is the central character in this piece, she alone does not speak; it is only through her men’s reminisces of her, through the playing of her music and the reading of her letters to Eliot Crawshay-Williams that the audience can hear her voice. Onstage, Faith’s tiny frame is accentuated as Morfydd is portrayed as a passive dolllike character, easily manipulated by her two men, however it is only as her relationship develops with both that we see her personality and passion start to shine through.
In I Loved You And I Loved You, Sally Marie is not so much a storyteller as a story-shower: she selects scenes from Morfydd’s too-short life (she died mysteriously and tragically at age 26 due to her husband’s actions) and shows them to us, rather than telling us the story. This means that the audience can savour the unfolding of each scene and the beautiful choreography and dancing before them.
It’s a rich, understated work with powerful performances from all three dancers, especially Faith Prendergast, and it’s definitely worth seeing more than once to further understand the work’s subtlety.