Various venues, Edinburgh
August, 2008
**** / **** / ****

One of the most grievous losses from the Edinburgh Fringe landscape this year is Aurora Nova, a venue where one simply tried to catch as much of the programme of international visual and physical theatre as possible. Venue director Wolfgang Hoffman hopes that, after a year’s lay-off, Aurora Nova will be sufficiently bankrolled to return in 2009. In the meantime, the mini-empire of Zoo venues has gone some way towards filling the gap.

Korean company Cho-In Theatre’s The Angel And The Woodcutter is a deceptive piece of wordless movement theatre. It begins as an almost saccharine folk tale, in which a devil-may-care young woodsman takes a wife and domestic tensions arise with his ageing mother. Gradually the piece grows darker, until these figures find themselves amid a war: rape, torture, prostitution and death are portrayed with exactly the same grace and precision. The effect is chilling.

The Factory by the young company Precarious (not to be confused with the production of the same name at the Pleasance, about which I have previously waxed wroth) is a tremendous piece of multimedia work depicting a future dystopia of world-as-factory, in which all that matters are efficient output and administrative ruthlessness. Both in their visual content and in the inventiveness of their projection, the video components of the show are among the most impressive I have seen in years at any level of work. The company’s physical movement is adept, and once they find a spoken voice to match these ingredients (the text here is an overwritten mishmash of Berkoffian-epic and a generous dusting of literary allusions) they will be extraordinary.

One of a batch of Czech productions scattered across several venues, Skutr’s The Weepers is a thing of beauty. Traditional Czech songs of mourning and other occasions of departure intermingle with scenes of individuals, couples and the ensemble of seven engaging in acts of simple human connection, from love and marriage to shadow-play and even a game of tag. The company achieve a warm rapport with the audience by dint of treating the whole event as playful and serious at once; we can luxuriate even in the more funereal segments, knowing that these are experiences and emotions felt by all of us alike and drawing comfort and strength from that empathy.

Written for the Financial Times.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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