SHAKER
ICA, London SW1
Opened 28 April, 1992

Part-biography of Ann Lee (founder of the Shaker sect), part-impressionistic picture of Shaker communal life, this solo piece is obviously the result of extensive thought and exploration including a sojourn with the remaining nine members of the community in Maine but somehow lacks the fervour needed to delineate beliefs founded upon divine ecstasy.

The descent of the Holy Spirit is conveyed firstly by shivering a trestle tabletop on which sit a number of doll's-house chairs (the set is naturally based around the sect's famous furniture), and later through an over-stylised community dance; but the response is intellectual rather than visceral "Oh, that's clever," rather than "My God, that's what it's like!" Granted, Shakers are rigorously ascetic in lifestyle (no unnecessary talk or touching between the sexes), but their religion is passionate.

A number of striking images young Ann, describing how she chanced upon a rape victim, unwittingly lets her bowl of porridge spill into her lap; the sect's emigration to America is reflected by drawing aside a drape to reveal an apple-pie farmscape are let down by a soul-shaped hole at the centre of the performance. Alison Edgar seems unwilling or unable to deliver the necessary commitment to her portrayal; this may develop as the show's year-long tour progresses, but for the moment it remains a tantalising hint of what might be.

Written for City Limits magazine.

Copyright Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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