The Enormous Room from Stopgap Dance Company returns at The Point, Eastleigh on 8th February following the 2017 London launch at the Lilian Baylis, Sadler’s Wells. Featuring David Toole, whose achievements and skills as a disabled performer have been widely influential, plus newcomer Hannah Sampson as a father and daughter living through their own, very different experiences of grief.
Dave’s wife Jackie has died, but he still sees her everywhere. She is lying in his bed, sitting at the kitchen table and laughing with their daughter Sam. Dave has withdrawn into the living room unable to let his memories go, but going is all that Sam can think about….
David Toole’s career includes a prominent solo in the 2012 Paralympic Opening Ceremony and the landmark 2004 film from DV8, The Cost Of Living. David has worked with Stopgap Dance Company for over a decade.
Sam is played by Hannah Sampson, a young dancer with Down’s syndrome who has received over 10 years of professional training with Stopgap Dance Company. The interactions between David Toole and Sampson demonstrate their onstage chemistry, which has been evident since initial rehearsals and workshops of this work.
David and Hannah are joined by non-disabled dancers Amy Butler (the rehearsal director of Chotto Desh by Akram Khan) and Meritxell Checa (collaborator with Philippe Decouflé), who take the roles of Jackie as Sam’s mother and Dave’s wife respectively.
Lucy Bennett, Stopgap’s Artistic Director and choreographer for The Enormous Room, chose to have two performers play Jackie to illustrate the subjective nature of memory. The Cambodian wheelchair dancer Nadenh Poan plays Chock, a Puck-like presence who orchestrates the collision between this world and the next. Christian Brinklow from Great Yarmouth plays the role of Tom, who offers his friend Sam a chance to escape sadness. Check out a trailer of the show below!
We managed to catch up with David as he talked about the upcoming show and more!
So how much are looking forward to performing in front of the Eastleigh crowd?
Always enjoy performing at The Point. It’s almost like a second home and we have an excellent relationship with everyone there.
Have you played at The Point before?
Yes the company have played the point several times and have premiered our previous piece, Artificial Things there. Some of the creation of the Enormous Room was done at The Point too.
Tell us about the show, do you think this will appeal to the wider audience?
I think this show in particular connects with an audience on a very human level. It deals with loss and the relationships within that situation. I think it’s something that most people have experienced at some point in their lives. The story itself deals with the characters of Dave and his daughter Sam. They’ve recently lost their wife and mother respectively. Dave has refused to accept this and locked himself in a room with all his memories of his wife, Jackie. Sam wants to move on and sees a way out in her best friend Tom. Dave and Sam have different memories of Jackie and this is represented by this character being played by two dancers. The final character, Choc is the link between the two worlds and has come to take Jackie to the next one. The second half of the show deals more with Sam dealing with her struggle to let Jackie go and is a more abstract part of the show. To emphasise this, the set is totally stripped back to leave a bare space for the dance to take place.
How much do you owe to the Stopgap Dance Company for this opportunity?
I love working with Stopgap and it’s hard to believe that I have been with them as a performer for almost 10 years now. I have known the company since it’s inception, as the then artistic director Vicki Balaam having attended a CandoCo workshop decided that this was something she wanted to pursue so the idea of her own company was born
What inspired you to get into performing in the first place?
I always wanted to perform growing up. My father was a singer in the Northern clubs and I guess this is where the performing bug got me. I used to perform in all of the school productions but once I left there were no opportunities to go further. I found myself working as a postman for nine years before fate led me to my former music teacher. She told me about a dance company for disabled and non disabled dancers who were holding a workshop. This was a very young CandoCo dance company. I attended that workshop and then fortunately after a series of coincidences I was asked to join the company and stayed there for seven years, touring around the UK and abroad.
What would be the dream venue to play in one day?
I’ve been very fortunate to play some beautiful spaces in the last 25 years so that’s a tricky question. I suppose going back to the Théâtre de la Ville in Paris would be nice. I have such nice memories of there and it was my first trip to Paris too.
If you could work with one actor or dancer in the world, who would it be and why?
Growing up I used to watch Gene Kelly a lot and actually preferred him over Fred Astaire. If I could back in time, he would be the one I’d love to try and do something with. I’ve been fortunate to dance with some beautiful dancers in the past and of course I get to work with wonderful dancers every day. I’ve never been one for making plans or wishes so am usually happy where I am at that time.
What do you get up to in your spare time when not performing and rehearsing?
I have to confess to being quite lazy when not working but I do like to travel around the country exploring historical sites or buildings. I get excited by roman ruins around Britain and try to track anything down when on tour. I recently fulfilled a long standing ambition to visit Loch Ness too.. It was well worth the 8 hour drive
What would you say to up and coming performers looking to get into the industry?
I suppose the best thing I could say is to be true to yourself and keeping pushing. It’s not the easiest industry to work in and there can be setbacks but if you have the confidence and believe that opportunity will present itself. Of course there’s nothing wrong with a bit of hard work too…