This was almost absurd in its ambition: nearly 100 members of the Edinburgh public play almost 500 parts, with dazzling costumes, and often bizarre props, and for 90 minutes, nobody speaks a word.
It was a dadaesque town square with a succession of movements in and out and a variety of characters from the everyday to the bizarre, and the historical. And the scale, and the precision, and the variety of it all was wonderful – you could not help but smile, and giggle from time to time at the sheer audacity of it all.
And it was a splendid mixture of moodiness and delight, with the sheer unexpectedness of characters and props, and constant wondering ‘what next’ adding to the enjoyment. Was that a mummy floating above the stage in a papyrus boat? Yes. Was that a coffin being driven around in a golf cart? It was. Was that Roman soldier giving that guy with the burnt-out candle a piggy-back? Yes he was.
With subtly shifting lighting, and stage effects such as wind and falling leaves all adding to it, this ever changing tableaux was accompanied by a variety of music, from accordion throbs to pulsing electronica.
Don’t look too hard for a plot
But if you were looking for a story, or an arc of one, you were in for a big disappointment. These moments were often hilarious, confusing, poignant, funny, sad or elegaic, but there was nothing here you could call a narrative.
The pace was also a little uneven, with the occasional episode where the same action repeated too often or for too long, but that’s not to take away from the strong performances, confident movement and always inventive, delightful costumes and props.
I’m not sure that, whatever the author Peter Handke’s original intentions were, trying to make a cohesive story or draw a message from this, with the action for more of the ensemble together on stage towards the latter part, seemed very clunky and awkward, where prior movement was joyous and natural.
It seems to be stretching for something more symbolic and meaningful in its latter parts, and to be frank, it doesn’t work when it tries to do that. It’s at its best when simply seen as a succession of little micro-stories.
The odd thing about this performance is that one must just enjoy each absurd, ludicrous, funny, poignant moment and scene as it happens, because it is gone again in an instant.
It’s just that, no more. Don’t worry about trying to make too much sense of it all. It’s just life’s rich tapestry weaving itself in front of your eyes. And it is a huge credit to the director, stage crew, costume department and the cast that such a slick, clockwork performance comes to life so well.
4 stars ★★★★
31 May – 2 June 2018
Thursday through Saturday