Edinburgh Fringe: Tension and drama in Kennedy Muntanga’s A Death Has Occurred

Greenside @ Nicholson Square, Edinburgh
August 22, 2022

Presenting a 30-minute excerpt from the third act of his still in-progress whole-evening creation, Kennedy Muntanga explains that it’s about a journalist who has learned of a city to be destroyed by God. Wondering how God could do such a thing but cannot even visit his own life, the character sneaks into the city.

There we meet Olivia Grassot, the central figure, now trapped in a church with Jessica Chambers and Elisa Ingrassia. Outside, all is death and destruction. The choreography is as filled with eerie desperation as the music from Henryk Górecki’s intensely evocative Third Symphony (‘Symphony of Sorrowful Songs’), which adds layer upon layer to the work.

Jessica Chambers (left) and Elisa Ingrassia
in A Death Has Occurred by Kennedy Muntanga
Photo Paul Seaby

The fully committed and invested dancers are terrific. The way the emotion and feeling comes through, even out of context, is truly impressive. This is dance that reaches out, grabs you from the off, and does not let go for a second.

Chambers and Ingrassia argue and fight while Grassot sleeps. Although very much danced, their conflict is very convincing. Smashes to the face are so realistic they make you recoil. Waking, Grassot tries to intervene as peacemaker, the cue for much pulling, pushing and yelling at each other.

Vocalisation is so often overdone these days but it truly adds to the situation here. That each of the dancers uses their own language makes us focus on the intent and meaning behind the words rather than the text itself. It comes as an extra layer to the soundscape

Elsewhere, the dance sweeps easily across the space including in some fabulous fast-paced, mostly floor-based sections in unison that emphasise the threesome are actually in this together. At other times, that togetherness comes in single positions, momentary but that register powerfully in the mind.

As Muntanga explained in the excellent Q&A afterwards, Grassot is actually the cause of the friction having taken food without asking. Her agitation at the situation she finds herself in is shown beautifully in the way she clutches at various body parts like someone possessed or afflicted.

It ends with nothing resolved, but with a deep sense of helplessness. It also left me wanting to see more, much more. A Death Has Occurred at the Fringe may be short, but it’s very, very tasty. Kennedy Muntanga is clearly an eloquent young choreographer with a lot to say. Definitely, one to be watched.

A Death Has Occurred is at Greenside @ Nicholson Square to August 27, 2022. Visit tickets.edfringe.com for tickets.