‘Mesmeric in its ability to transport’: YAYAYA AYAYAY – Southbank Centre

In London theatre, Opinion, Plays, Reviews by Laura KresslyLeave a Comment

Southbank Centre, London

The infant Earth was a place of chaos and noise. High winds, rivers of lava and churning layers of rock glowed and cracked. It’s from this hot, toxic sea that arose the perfect conditions for life as the surface of the planet divided into sea and land, and gravity’s pull invited the formation of an atmosphere.

It’s in these turbulent, changeable circumstances that a glowing, primordial creature emerges from the shadows and finds a sense of self. But with this awareness comes an acknowledgement of the Other and all unknown possibilities that dichotomy can create. In this case, that Other is the audience. Until this point, the creeping sense of exploration and self-identifying is driven by light, sound and bodily rhythms.

The beginning of the piece takes place in near-total darkness accompanied by a rhythmic soundscape that is neither soothing nor disruptive. It dominates the space just enough that it’s impossible to ignore, but neither does it irritate. Small, performer-operated lights are used with increasing frequency and brightness, gradually illuminating the figure in the space, with glow-in-the-dark objects adding another dimension to the landscape. One particular sequence evokes images of beaches covered in bioluminescent algae, or a lunar landscape, or possibly both at once.

The fluid, swaying choreography accompanied by an electronic soundscape and distorted vocal effects also captures the discovery of language. The link between the self and the ability to speak/express thoughts is particularly poignant.

Performer Ultimate Dancer gives a fairly emotionless performance, but in the hyper-worldly circumstances this distinctive atmosphere evokes, it oddly fits. She doesn’t seem to feel anything, just exist in the present with no sense of past or future – it’s as compelling as watching a performer in a neutral mask.

There’s sound dramaturgical work from Jo Bannon here and impressive design by Ultimate Dancer and Robbie Thomson. Further exploration of this world and its audience-inhabitants’ interactions with this being would be a fascinating experiment, but this piece is still mesmeric in its ability to transport us over aeons.

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Laura Kressly
Laura is a US immigrant who has lived in the UK since 2004. Originally trained as an actor with a specialism in Shakespeare, she enjoyed many pre-recession years working as a performer, director and fringe theatre producer. When the going got too tough, she took a break to work in education as a support worker, then a secondary school drama teacher. To keep up with the theatrical world, she started reviewing for Everything Theatre and Remotegoat in 2013. In 2015, Laura started teaching part time in order to get back into theatre. She is now a freelance fringe theatre producer and runs her independent blog, theplaysthethinguk.com.

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Laura Kressly on RssLaura Kressly on Twitter
Laura Kressly
Laura is a US immigrant who has lived in the UK since 2004. Originally trained as an actor with a specialism in Shakespeare, she enjoyed many pre-recession years working as a performer, director and fringe theatre producer. When the going got too tough, she took a break to work in education as a support worker, then a secondary school drama teacher. To keep up with the theatrical world, she started reviewing for Everything Theatre and Remotegoat in 2013. In 2015, Laura started teaching part time in order to get back into theatre. She is now a freelance fringe theatre producer and runs her independent blog, theplaysthethinguk.com.

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