Assembly Checkpoint, Edinburgh
August 10, 2019
The Korean Season at the Edinburgh Fringe always throws up dance that’s interesting. That’s certainly the case with Kim Modeun’s Goliath in the Water for Modeun Company, a piece inspired by the novel of the same title by award winning South Korean author Kim Ae-ran, a book that, from what I can make out, follows that emotions of a boy left alone in the monsoon season. It’s a dance work full of meaningful imagery and excellent performances but the lack of any sort of programme note (the book is equally elusive to track down on-line) means it’s left very much to the watcher to decipher.
There is a sense of desolation. The staging is minimal: a few dustbins, bits of furniture and other junk spread around the stage or hanging in the air (it’s cut back in Edinburgh from usual and that’s shown in the photos). With the cast in everyday dress, there is a sense we have found ourselves in a world after some sort of natural disaster.
The movement is frequently unsettling as is the often ominous soundscape that’s full of banging and clanging. Pauses in it help us hear the performers’ breath, and breathlessness, which becomes part of the accompaniment. There are also some odd choices including Nancy Sinatra’s Sugartown and David Bowie’s Space Oddity.
The dance itself has hints of hip hop with robotic isolations. There are bursts and energy and swift changes of direction. It’s sharp, clean and very precise. The performers look up and out as if unable to comprehend the disaster has become them. Sweet birdsong comes as a surprise; the calm that follows every storm.
There are some excellent, emotive solos. One by Jeong Kyuyeon is especially potent. It’s as if the weight of everything is bearing down on her. Increasingly agitated and fractic, she shakes. She’s pained, broken. One imagines her railing at the loss of someone or at least being unable to find them.
When she ‘dies’ Kim dances with her corpse in a haunting dance, flinging her around like a lump of dead meat, her lifeless limbs falling, flailing, in all directions. There’s a bit of a discontinuity when she then almost immediately comes back to life, though; unless, I suppose, you imagine her as a ghost.
There’s a sharp ramping up of mood when dustbins full of empty water bottles are pushed over, their contents spilling all over the stage. Whether a reference to a monsoon or an environmental statement, or both, is unclear, however. The end that follows is dragged out rather, though.
Goliath in the Water has some super moments. I came away bowled over by the imagery and the performers; and that duet between Kim and Jeong is superb. But while I don’t need, and don’t want, a blow by blow explanation, a little something to guide me would have been much appreciated.
Goliath in the Water is at Assembly Checkpoint to August 26. Visit www.assemblyfestival.com for details and tickets.