Dancer and Choreographer Trajal Harrell talks about latest work ‘Porca Miseria’, a trilogy of works to be staged at the Barbican

Taking to our stages 6 years ago with gallery performance Hoochie Koochie at the Barbican, US based dancer and choreographer Trajal Harrell returns to London with new work – Porca Miseria, a trilogy inspired by 3 very powerful women within our literal and metaphorical history – Maggie from Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, the African American choreographer and activist Katherine Dunham and the Greek mythological Medea. Powerful women who have inspired imagination, the multidisciplinary piece is set to be staged at the Barbican from 12th to 14th May. Ahead of the show, Trajal tells us more about what to expect!

Hi Trajal, you’ll be bringing your new trilogy Porca Miseria to the Barbican from 12th to 14th May. How are you feeling ahead of the production?

I love London and being at the Barbican; but I’m nervous as always. It’s a lot of work and problem solving with a trilogy production, but I try to take it one step at a time.
Porca Miseria is based on the stories of three very different, but equally strong women: Maggie from Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, the African American choreographer and activist Katherine Dunham and the Greek mythological Medea. Issues of identity, gender, sexuality and power are explored. What inspired you to explore these particular stories further?
I was intrigued by the way that in the voguing ballroom scene they use the word bitch. They have reclaimed it and use it as an honorific. So, I wanted to look at bitches. Women who refused to be shutdown by the people and societies that tried to thrwart their ambitions.
The production combines dance, theatre, cinema and visual art. How have you approached creating the production?
I wanted to really think of it as a sort of exhibition in the theatre. So the audience moves around and has the viewpoint, like in a museum, of seeing different kinds of media. Deathbed is a gallery performance with close proximity. O Medea is a film and Maggie the Cat is a theatre production with frontal view.

The last time you performed here in London was at the Barbican Art Gallery in 2017 with Hoochie Koochie – a series of live performances dotted around the space allowing for audiences to weave through and determine their own routes. With themes of the body, gender, race, sexuality and culture explored. How did you find the experience? How has this fed into your latest trilogy?

Hoochie Koochie was amazing. I really don’t know how we performed so much each day. I think the audiences and viewers were so excited that we fed off of their energy. London really embraced the work and that gave a lot of energy to what we were doing. It’s always a collaboration.
What have you learned/taken away from creating Porca Miseria?
Be careful of what you name your works. We didn’t expect this project to take 6-7 years to get on its feet. But we had some setbacks along the way including Covid. So we had to be flexible but most of all Manchester International Festival and the Barbican hung in there. I thought it would have been cancelled a long time ago so I think it’s about really working with good people who stand by their commitment to support the work in the long run. I’m very grateful and honoured by that.
What can audiences expect from the production?

The dancers are amazing. I’m biased but these are a collection of some of the best contemporary dancers working in the field right now.

Questions by Lucy Basaba.

Porca Miseria will show from Friday 12th to Sunday 14th May 2023 at the Barbican. To find out more about the production, visit here…

Written by Theatrefullstop