Edinburgh Fringe: Three at Dance Base

Dance Base, Edinburgh
August 19, 2022

TOB Group: Are You Guilty

Are You Guilty? by TOB Group (Think Outside the Box), a young Korean contemporary dance company, is a hugely energetic, fast-paced double-bill of works by Kim Min.

The title work supposedly explores the ‘bystander effect, the idea that we are rather more likely to help someone in need if we are the only other present, than we are if others are around. If that is there, it’s very well hidden. Towards the end, there is a lot of finger-pointing, but I didn’t see any sense of the fine line between perpetrator and victim as claimed.

What there is, however, is three men and a table in some impressive and incredibly fast-moving choreography. The first ten minutes may be in silence but it has a super rhythm to it, sound coming from banging and scratching the table, dragging chairs and so on. It also got all the precision and split-second timing that it needed.

TOB Group in Are You Guilty
Photo Rachel Chang

The second piece, Barcode, considers mass consumerism. Using 20 large black boxes and eight smaller ones, the work looks at our need to acquire more and more goods, and the value we attach to them.

It’s like being in a distribution warehouse. Tables become a conveyor belt, the six dancers in overalls the operatives. The choreography is startlingly complex. Dancers disappear through a wall of boxes as if now themselves on a conveyor going through a wall. Later, they toss and constantly rearrange the smaller boxes, using letters written on their side to spell out various words including, naturally, ‘BARCODE’.

The physicality needs to be seen to be believed. There’s never a dull moment. As they tumble and roll, leap off boxes and goodness knows what else, the whole cast were fantastic.

Are You Guilty is at Dance Base, Edinburgh to August 28, 2022. Click here for tickets.

Stephen Pelton Dance Theatre: End Without Days

Edd Mitton and Freya Jeffs in Stephen Pelton’s End Without Days
Photo Pierre Tappon

A blindfolded man with a bouquet of flowers. A woman. An otherwise empty space. Stephen Pelton’s End Without Days is a meditation on separation and time. The couple for so long apart were danced exquisitely by Freya Jeffs and Edd Mitton.

The narrative is inspired by multiple events including the Trump administration’s Family Separation Policy at USA-Mexico, issues around the loss of his father, COVID and a dream of a squad firing his imagination. That’s quite a mix. What I saw were the worries about reuniting with someone after a long time apart. Will it be the same? Can it be the same? And then what might happen when that reuniting finally happens.

There’s a dramatic opening, Jeffs banging four chairs on the floor as she shifts one to each corner of the space. Pelton’s dance then often has the couple separated, moving around each other but keeping their distance. Long, lingering but chilly looks punctate the action. The choreography tends towards the coolly formal and is frequently rather stylised, not unlike that and the characterisation found in José Limón’s works. Given Pelton’s background, that’s not a surprise but it doesn’t encourage emotion involvement or connection with what we see.

Perhaps indicative of underlying or past feelings not quite forgotten, arms are often outstretched. Jeffs is the more open (to us at least) of the two, her thoughts and inner turmoil showing in body and face as she tried to communicate and reconnect. But even when they do come together, that emotional separation with each other, and the audience, remains.

End Without Days has finished its run.

Scottish Dance Theatre: Antigone, Interrupted

Solène Weinachter in Antigone, Interrupted
Photo Maria Falconer

Antigone is a Greek tragedy and they are full of dead bodies, Solène Weinachter informs us at the beginning of Antigone, Interrupted. She adds that they also have lots of people. “But tonight, you only have me. So, wish me luck!”

Not that she needs it. Weinachter delivers a startling one-woman performance as she takes us through the tragedy about Oedipus’ daughter, playing all the characters herself.

The text is beautifully delivered. Her coming timing and use of the pause is outstanding, but the work is at its best in those few moments when her wonderful physicality comes to the fore. It’s as if the play has taken over her whole being. She crawls. She becomes barking, howling dogs. She contorts like injured soldiers, her body apparently broken like theirs. Unfortunately, movement and dance is very much at a minimum.

The ‘Interrupted’ of the title comes from the friendly diversions, asides, references to her personal story and experiences of the 2000-year-old tragedy interwoven with the descriptions of scenes in the play itself. What there is not, is much of Sophocles’ own text.

Set in the round, the audience effectively become a Greek chorus and are occasionally brought into the proceedings too (as when she asks us to connect with one another by closing our eyes and taking a few deep breaths) and referenced in improvised moments.

Increasingly, it’s impossible not to make comparisons with the modern day. Antigone, after all, is essentially a play about defiance and challenging power. That comes across loud and clear, and, just perhaps, is the most important message to take away.

Antigone Interrupted is at Dance Base to August 28, 2022. Click here for tickets.