Edinburgh Fringe 2018
‘I looked up in the skies. The Sky river changed its bed’ (Hattori Ransetsu). Once in a lifetime Sky Labyrinths open to everyone, but not everyone risks entering. These labyrinths are home to beauty and terror at the same time. They reveal the eternal secrets of the universe and pages of the books unwritten: there you can find your essence or get lost forever. It’s a road with no beginning or ending, a river of time carrying humans’ destiny. Those who come through these labyrinths will never be the same again.
There is a curious and minimal set onstage, it’s effective, draws us in and off we go on an adventure! “Culture is democracy” a voiceover says at the start of the show by Alyona Ageeva’s Physical Theatre PosleSlov from Russia. Ageeva creates original productions with the collaboration of her performers, often inspired by art and mythology. Seeking beauty and meaning much deeper than the surface, her shows are known for the superb movement quality, which is front and centre in Sky Labyrinths.
A vibrant soundscape of music and brief sound effects plays throughout, that adds atmosphere and complements the imagery. Sound Design by David Block integrates his own compositions as well as those by Marina Schlagintweit, Nino Katamadze, Djivan Gasparyan, and Lexey Merganov.
The piece is developed in 8 consecutive sections, beginning with the creation of the world and ending with “The Sky river changed its bed”. An early scene expresses a rapport with a male and female performer, with fluid movements like a snake and defined with angular arms. Conflict arises about ownership, and melts away followed by scenes of mystery and beautiful sculptural physicality.
The structure of the story is solid with an arc and strong finish. Ideas are abstract and visually rich, sometimes incorporating swaths of fabric, very effectively. A variety of stylish costumes in black add to the imagery, with costume design by Tatiana Fedotova. Several rhythmic sequences of sinewy dance, slow and sustained with unusual hand and wrist positions are very beautiful, showing Ageeva’s and her male partner’s stunning movement and choreography as they dance, act and emote together.
There is brief humour in the piece as a dramatic man with a hat arrives. He provides fascinating context and subtext to the story. The company creates what seems like a strange world, however, it certainly is provocative and keeps you thinking!
The choreography draws from many worlds including Asian influences, with mystical motifs to grand music. The second half of The Sky Labyrinths is particularly well developed and flows from idea and expression seamlessly. The company of five performers create interesting ritualistic scenes as the story unfolds. Mood changes through the varied music with the movement develop emotive reactions and everything works so well together. The performers have admirable focus and integrity, which transfers to the audience.
This show is visceral, tantalizing, beautiful and transporting storytelling!