Summerhall, Edinburgh – until 28 November 2015
Guest reviewer: Susan Lowes
Explorative: There’s something unnerving about Theatre Paradok’s To Breathe at Summerhall.
It’s a feeling which begins pre-show and pervades right through the Edinburgh University company’s hour-long production. The synopsis is elusive, giving little away so it’s with a certain enigma that the audience is led through the old Royal (Dick) Veterinary School courtyard to one of its remaining demonstration rooms.
There’s an overarching sense that this production isn’t going to appeal to most, it’s not going to give many answers and it’s not going to allow itself to be compartmentalised. In an obscure way, it’s almost as though the production is an organic entity and the cast are merely parts of the organism.
From a cathartic exhalation to begin, the small cast of six guide an exploration of the elements and human nature through the life cycle.
Adela Briansó, Madeline Flint, Lewis McDonald, Anna Elisabeth Thomsen, Tiffany Soirat and Erin Whalley are energetic and compelling performers, each acting out the common thread, but expressing their individuality throughout.
They achieve some captivating expressions of emotions, particularly during representations of fear and suppression. The psycho-social stresses of modern day life seem to shine through.
Yet, there are also less convincing elements where motivations are unclear. The exploration of abstract concepts through physical theatre can mean that there’s the capacity to lose the audience along the way.
At one point this feels like a moment from one of Huxley’s soma-induced solidarity groups and the next moment there’s a lone figure chasing fire. It can be confusing, but perhaps that’s also the intent. Life is confusing.
The choreography though is extremely clever, always drawing the audience’s attention to where it should be, despite the sometimes tumultuous goings on.
The production is dynamic and experimental, it challenges the audience to think about what they’re watching. But, there’s a sense that it goes a little too far into the abstract – and with that there’s capacity for some of the audience to lose interest along the way. There may be few puzzled audience members reaching again for that synopsis on the way out as they struggle to make sense of what they’ve seen.
Running time: 1 hour
Summerhall, 1 Summerhall, EH9 1PL
Tuesday 24 – Saturday 28 November 2015
Evenings 7.30 pm
Details and tickets from http://www.summerhall.co.uk/2015/to-breathe/
Theatre Paradok website: http://paradok.co.uk/
Theatre Paradok on Facebook: www.facebook.com
To Breathe facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/157207934634143/