Edinburgh Fringe 2014
Kiln Ensemble presents ‘Lady GoGo Goch’ at Summerhall, a fusion of traditional Welsh language, song and story. It combines provocative visual imagery with actual live music recording to create a clever and amusing piece of consciously fragmented theatre. The piece progresses through nine female characters that are a representation of Welsh identity, charms us with bespoke musical instruments, and presents for your perusal historical and topical themes.
As we enter, the broad stage is already softly lit with the low accompanying hum of Welsh voices. A woman sits to our right in traditional Welsh costume. She appears as if in a trance, her beautifully geisha-like painted face adorned by an outsized stovepipe hat. She is joined onstage by a man who gently tries to stir her unsuccessfully. He sits down amongst a cluster of musical instruments and slowly begins to loop a series of rhythmic sounds. As the musical patterns increase, the woman suddenly springs to life – joining him, she screeches and squawks into a microphone until her vocal sounds are consumed within the now emerging audio. This frees her to dance and connect with her audience. Her face is a series of versatile contortions that allude to its many inhabitants. She can look serenely beautiful, demonically fiendish, young and old. She performs for us, a possessed almost unearthly entity, with glee.
The music abates and she gives birth to a new incarnation. Grimacing, as if in labour, the woman strips off her costume and seems to virtually roll out into the next persona, a brassy voiced Welsh Diva. For the next hour they persistently bewitch the unsuspecting audience with a series of scenarios all of which are sewn together with the distinctive Welsh theme. They toy with us and push us to sensory overload, then the nimble actress leaps into the audience and cajoles us into continuing with her on this surreal journey of Celtic identity.
The wonderfully delightful Frankie Fox excels in this piece of national extravaganza. Her voice is stupendous, the familiar sounding Welsh consonants and sibilants slide and roll off her tongue as she swoops and dives with melodic agility. She is counterbalanced by her mute musician, Ricardo Rocha, and together they weave a series of compositions whose jagged individual elements merge together to form attractive and lulling soundscapes. Fox’s operatic range and understanding of the power of the voice allows her to dip in and out with either recognisable melody or guttural sound and this skill she executes to great effect. On the rare occasion she speaks, her strong Welsh brogue is a gentle breeze on the ear. It’s a marriage of striking visual imagery and abstract musical reverie.
The accompanying programme acknowledges that it’s not necessary to speak traditional Welsh to appreciate this work and that, within this forum, coherent language has no relevance. They achieve this meeting of minds by wrapping comic antics, catchy tunes, striking visual poise and clever professionally adept scene changes. They cleverly use the birthing technique to herald a change of theme, and each musical piece is constructed as we watch, keeping us involved as the whole piece unfolds.
The audience roar with laughter often and it feverishly races through to a glorious finale. This work is a wonderful exercise in escapism. I easily emptied my mind and just let it all happen to me. Fox and Rocha are fascinating to watch as they make their original music – and as each visual and audio creation comes to life I felt like I was opening up a birthday present from a favourite friend who always manages to surprise and challenge me. Glorious.