Edinburgh Fringe 2010
Russian dance theatre, Edinburgh regulars, DO-Theatre, are back with the UK premiere of their new work, Anatomy of Fantasy. The piece examines where fantasy sits with our physicality with some stunning visual imagery.
Triple Fringe First winners, DO-Theatre, are back with their new piece of dance theatre, Anatomy of Fantasy, and while it has some wonderful dance movements, striking visual imagery and live music, it fails to transport entirely as their previous shows have done. Founded in 1987 in Russia as an experimental theatre group, DO-Theatre employs a dance language they term Russian modernism, brutal and demanding but infused with poetic tension. While this one-hour piece at the Assembly Room does not fail to enthrall with its stunning visual imagery and sheer physicality, it fails to reach out to us emotionally and ultimately feels a rather sterile experience.
Anatomy of Fantasy looks at the places where anatomy and fantasy collide, at how the contents of our subconscious inhabit and penetrate our physicality, and how our physical world is infused and informed by our subconscious. DO-Theatre takes us on a journey through the seasons of life, from birth to death and all the stages in between.
The piece starts with three women emerging from boxes as man further downstage manipulates them like rag dolls; they stir as if from sleep and move into life. Throughout, these three women act almost as a chorus, while the two male dancers control the action; so much so, that there are times when this seems to be more an anatomy of male fantasy than an anatomy of fantasy.
Played out like a series of discordant dreams, mythical images connect us to a stream of subconscious, a waking dream played out somewhere between life and death. There are female sirens, there are demons, and the grim reaper and several scythes put in an appearance. The women tease out a cat’s cradle of red wool entwining the man, bound by his own imagination, in the cage of his mother’s womb. There are images of arresting visual impact that stand somewhere on the threshold between the physical and the fantastical.
The music has a strong post-industrial electronic beat. A solitary male figure plays keyboards over this. It conjures up elemental sounds of wind and water, of scratching, of starting up – strange, unearthly sounds that conjure up a region between the physical and the spiritual. And there are times when this black clad figure steps out and picks out an authoritative dance beat with a hypnotic tarantella on a beat box.
The set is minimal but effective – the boxes and cages are ingeniously used to create a variety of effects and always to emphasise how we are imprisoned by ourselves, by others, by the limits of our imagination. The boxes form screens that the women are silhouetted behind, and that images and still lifes are projected onto. Subdued lighting with intermittent burst of dry ice and some judicially employed spotlighting adds to the atmosphere and imagery, giving chiaroscuro light and shade.
In spite of being loaded with striking moments, powerful choreography and beautiful dancing, DO-Theatre’s Anatomy of Fantasy appears to be more style than substance, its ideas more intellectual pretension than expression of subconscious fantasy.