Adelaide Fringe 2014
Eclectic, organic music from several (usually) solo musicians-turned-ensemble accompanying an earnest movement piece. Temporal Cocoon incorporates driving rhythms, yogic movement and gentle audience participation into an hour-long musical celebration of life.
The aluminium and concrete back-garden space at the Wheatsheaf Hotel on George Street has no right to be as intimate and lovely as it is. Paper lanterns strung gaily through the space over a dozen or so tables stolen from a 1950s sitcom kitchenette offer warmth to a venue that might otherwise seem cold and industrial. As we settle in to wait for Temporal Cocoon to begin, the musicians are preparing themselves on the small stage in the corner of the space. Various bowls and other brightly painted implements bestrew the tabletops before us, and soft, moody folk music plays from the Wheaty’s surprisingly good PA system.
We As Art, We As Artists is a collective name that risks a bit of pretention to describe a multi-disciplinary performance making company founded in 2011 by Mary Webb, a soft spoken, dark haired singer-songwriter turned devised theatre maker. The work is ensemble driven post-modern dance-meets-yoga-meets-folksong. Four vocalists (Mary Webb, Miriam Crellin, Fergus O’Regan, and Leon Hewer) and a violinist (Sarah O’Brien), clad all in black, begin weaving together a sound that is folky yet edgy. Webb’s melting caramel voice drips into a sort of dissonant clash between O’Regan’s and Hewer’s complimentary voices (Morrissey meets Brian Molko), the flight of Crellin’s sweet, high purity (not unlike that of Bristol-based EXPENSIVE’s Grace Denton), and the tribal sound of looping vocal harmonies that puts us in mind of Adiemus.
The percussion is almost all homemade – empty beer bottles and mixing-spoons rattle against one another and drumsticks clacking on mike-stands mingle with the inexorable pounding of the floor tom to create an insistent, slightly uncomfortable rhythmic drive, which underpins much of the performance. The music, sometimes lovely and comforting, sometimes otherworldly, varies wildly in its energy – now quite quiet; suddenly swooping us up to carry us off on a tantrum. O’Brien’s singing strings support the act rather than fighting for our attention. But the music is just half of the story.
Downstage (well, technically off-stage – in the house) two more performers (Sarah Pearce and Wendy Webb – yes, the Webbs are sisters) emerge to take us on a journey through the medium of dance; in this case, movement based heavily on yoga poses. Pearce plays youthful petulance opposite Webb’s stern and watchful eye and the two orbit one another in a series of vignettes as the music washes off the stage to swirl over us all. It’s all very lovely. But it can feel like we’re watching two different shows.
The music has been rehearsed to perfection, and it is both aesthetically pleasing and technically brilliant. But the movement often feels a bit added on, as if something of an afterthought. This is a sweet, earnest performance from an Adelaide-based company who are really interested in taking their audiences with them on journeys. The audience-participation, when it comes, is delicate and warm, and the music is haunting and delightful. The movement is lovely to watch, Pearce’s lithe form mimicking Webb’s precise renderings of Yogic poses (and creating little filigrees of her own). Its short run at the Wheatsheaf Hotel having already come to an end, Temporal Cocoon was worth watching and we are intrigued to discover what this multidisciplinary company devises next.