Dark Matter

3 Nov 2011 in Dance & Drama, Highland, Showcase

A Garden in Ullapool, 2 November 2011

A POSSE of black-caped figures, heading for a shadowy garden, intent on something. Hallowe’en mischief perhaps? A Batman tribute event?  No, this was a theatre audience, making its way through the streets of Ullapool to the venue for an outdoor performance, subtitled ‘Murder in the Garden of Love’.

The subtitle is a shame, really, as it spoils something of what would better have been left a mystery.  It’s a one-woman performance, with Emma Anderson giving passionate voice to a script by Chris Lee which cycles from loss to madness to love and back to loss.

Emma Anderson in Vision Mechanic's Dark Matter

Emma Anderson in Vision Mechanic's Dark Matter

The set made the show. What began as a normal garden, complete with picnic bench, shed and wheelbarrow, evolved with dramatic lighting and a spooky soundtrack into a place of shadowy threats: a murder scene and a haunted treescape.

The interplay of created and natural sound and light was intriguing. The atmospheric soundtrack, delivered via earphones, wove into the sound of the wind in the trees to great effect. Emma’s voice blurred into echoes.

The lighting was set off by a moon-bruised and moody clouded sky.

The script is dense with poetic repetition and imagery. The girl remembers her parents, their love like birdsong, she their only child, their cherished little bird. Later, she discovers her own bird-flight loving, but then becomes a ‘grey wife’, like a wren with a sharp beak and claws.

Bird sounds in the soundtrack (created on computer by sound designer Tam Treanor) heightened these images, and when a bird flitted across the garden we wondered, was it real? Was it part of the performance? This is theatre with no boundary wall, a stage open to the surprises of nature.

Afterwards we shed our black cloaks, but not the sense of hauntedness, of having seen a ghost. Out there, in the garden, there’s a voice calling. ‘Love. Love. I’m waiting.’

Dark Matter is on tour until 25 November 2011.

© Mandy Haggith, 2011