BY THOMAS MISSON
Theatre Royal, 17 June
A dark circle filled the middle of the stage at the Theatre Royal as a group of cloaked figures emerged, stalking the perimeter of the circle and whispering. Unfortunately, I lost much of the contextually integral whispering from loud latecomers permitted to find seats at obviously inopportune moments.
As the performance continued, some of these figures uncloaked themselves to reveal white costumes before stepping into the circle of light and adopting a soloistic role. The still-cloaked figures looked on, occasionally bursting into clapping with robotic synchronicity.
The highly technical and abstract dance from the white-clothed soloists was at once primal and alien in angularity and fluidity. For me, the climax of the performance came towards the end with the isolation of one performer and the use of a cardboard box in the middle of the circle. As if sadistically testing the limits of their dogmatism, the horde commanded that he step into the box, lift and drop the box, and humorously “box the box”, which resulted in him throwing the box into the air and pummeling it like a punching bag. The innocence vanished and became egregiously immoral, rendering the audience silent save expressions of shock at the extent of their cultish despotism.
Molest the box,
Shit in the box
Dominate the box,
Penetrate the box,
Kill the box.
The soloist submitted himself as a plaything of the horde’s absurd, sexually depraved, abusive demands, forcing an abusive quasi-domestic relationship with the box in grotesque voyeurism. At the end of this, he was left naked as the last darkly cloaked figure lay with him; seemingly consuming and enveloping him before screaming and leaving him.
There was spare use of music throughout the performance, with many deep sounds and unstable oscillations of pitch and timbre. At other times, the music was intense, agonising; as if from the minds of Xenakis or Ustvolskaya. There were some wonderful moments of deep bass with extremely high sliding, microtonal strings, creating a vertiginous chasm between registers. Without hearing much of the opening whispering, this was still a greatly effective, committed performance and concept, and one of the better Dark Mofo events since the festival started.
Photo of Dark Mofo’s iy_project 136.1 Hz by Chris Levine. Credit: Dark Mofo/Lusy Productions, 2017. Image courtesy Dark Mofo, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia