A giant black catwalk imposes between the stone columns of Circomedia’s vaulted church space. At its far end, a gauze curtain is lit with a fiery orange circle, masking the stage behind. The crowds who are gathered for this performance, as part of Submerge’s festival of digital arts, mill into the surrounding space, and gradually still, heads uplifted towards the sun-like image and raised walkway, in anticipation of what may come.
First comes the bass. Throbbing, regular, low. A sonic buzz of electricity that primes my pulse. Jets of haze hiss into the space above our heads, dissipating through the room. I feel filled with the expectation of cultish ritual. Like the ravers and partygoers of the club scene where laser arts first took off, we’re here for something transcendental.
The interweaving patterns of precision lasers that will carve the air into solid planes, through a perfect balance of otherwise invisible haze, have been designed by Jack Wrigley as part of an exceptional 45-minute piece of aerial performance art.
Directed by Bex Anson of Total Theatre Award-winning MHz, Aedín Walsh descends a horizontal rope, then climbs aloft into a shifting topography of Escher-esque altered dimensions. Not only is the aerial portion 25 minutes long, but Walsh does the whole thing blindfolded as a health and safety measure against the lasers, masked with animated LED eye goggles that blink and twinkle, creating otherworldly creatures out of her twisting human form. The producers of the forthcoming stage adaptation of Jim Henson’s Labyrinth should totally hire this team to re-create a live Goblin King’s palace.
The other important element of the production is Sue Zuki’s omnipresent music, performed from a corner of the stage that is variously lit and shadowed to contrast with the sharply illuminated grids and vistas above us. Her genre is Dark Wave (according to the programme – I’m otherwise sadly clueless on distinctions of electronica), and the name suits the ominous rhythmic tones that wash over us, as well as her sonorous vocals, whose occasionally caught lyrics have a melancholic punch.
The shape of the piece moves from celestial harmony into churning confusion, surrender, and a final Indian Rope trick ascension to serenity, before we too are raised out of the underworld through a layer of blue sky.
I want to go again. I want to take my friends. I want to watch from other angles. I want to take in more of the never-repeatable nuances of swirling clouds and light. I want to rejoin the communal rites of turning our heads to the sky and moving our bodies subtly to the beating soundscape. Liquid Sky thrilled my senses with beauty. I want more of that please.
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