Parallel l Parallels

6 Aug 2008 in Dance & Drama, Highland, Music

Eden Court Studio 2, 2 August 2008

Michael Marra

THE MARK of the true artist is a ceaseless, compulsive striving to interpret and communicate. On the whole, dance has focused on an area whose boundaries are marked Life, Strife, Death and Love, subjects which lend themselves easily to communication through the language of movement.

Plan B, in a breathtaking leap, have decided to tackle something even bigger than life, the universe and everything – quantum physics, which not only postulates but demands infinitely multiple universes. Not content with that, they have enlisted Dundee’s finest singer/songwriter, Michael Marra, to compose the music and perform it live on stage.

The word ‘chutzpah’ doesn’t even begin to cover this, particularly since they are premiering this week in Edinburgh during the Fringe as part of the largest arts festival in the world. Not exactly sneaking it out quietly, then…. As part of the show, Plan B had invited the public to regular Friday afternoon viewings of the work in progress; having attended two of these, my appetite to see the finished work had been thoroughly whetted.

On the basis of Saturday afternoon’s preview, which was the company’s first complete run through, this groundbreaking show should cause a stir in Edinburgh. If it doesn’t, there is no justice. From the first words of John Harvey’s thoughtful text, Miranda’s speech from The Tempest which begins “What a piece of work is man….”, spoken over a low rasping, vibrant hum which could only have emanated from the gravelly throat of Mr Marra, there was a sense of being in the presence of something very special.

Tam Ward and Christine Devaney approached each other in slow motion, moving as though towards a reflection in a mirror, an element which was repeated several times in the course of the evening but with subtle differences.

The performance took place on a reflective floor on which stood four black louvred screens, surrounded by reflective panels, and the whole bounded by a lighting grid. On one side stood a keyboard for Michael Marra, and on two other sides there was seating for the audience.

The dancers sang, spoke, moved, danced, drummed, and pushed the screens into different configurations. In peripheral vision, half-seen movements flashed across the reflective surfaces, or through the louvre slats, movement motifs were picked up and repeated fractally – the same, only different.

Michael Marra played ‘Find the Lady’ while explaining the concept of superposition. It sounds chaotic, and in the mathematical sense it was, but it all made sense, and made sense of its vast, intimidating subject too.

Yes, Frank McConnell and assistant director Christine Devaney have triumphantly succeeded in what they set out to do. The company – Devaney, Libby Daye, Lina Limosani from Australian Dance Theatre, Michael Marra, Malcolm Shields (whose performance in the final minutes is a revelation – but I won’t spoil it for you) and Tam Ward – demonstrated quick precision and slow grace with equal facility; a special mention to Tam, whose moothie playing was as fine as his dancing.

Karen Tennant’s costumes in a palette of white, grey, silver, and black, with subtle additions of glitter and shine, worked beautifully, though I pitied Tam Ward having to dance in a jacket AND tie. Jeanine Davies’ lighting was exemplary and created a feeling of infinite space and depth.

“Time is a dimension through which other dimensions pass” … This show leaves you with a heightened appreciation of the genius of Michael Marra, a profound respect for the company, and a glimmering comprehension of the unimaginably vast. No other show can do this.

© Jennie Macfie, 2008


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