A little ‘off the reservation’ to say the least, At the Heart of Things, is an exploration of homosexuality, homophobia and finding one’s way in a dystopian world. Loosely based on Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis, the production includes a mixture of dance, puppetry, garbage film and contact improvisation.
This may be the point where you’re asking yourself, ‘what’s contact improvisation? And what exactly do you mean by garbage film? If this is, in fact, the case, this show probably isn’t for you, but if these conventions are right up your alley then this could certainly be a thought-provoking night at the theatre.
Presented by Vertebra Theatre as part of the Voila Europe festival, the story details the journey of two young girls who experience a nightclub attack; exploring the rediscovery of sexuality, femininity and womanhood.
There are multiple elements contributing to this piece, however, it feels quite haphazard and while there is certainly an underlying theme, it appears these elements are loosely tethered to the central ideology, becoming more of a distraction than integrated devices.
Where this show does excel, however, is in the choreography. Choreographed by Adrian Look and flawlessly executed by Piedad Seiquer and Depi Gorgogianni, the movement on stage is evocative, technically complex and highly illustrative. The opening scene, in particular, is a highlight of the production and clearly exhibits the skill of the performer.
The puppetry included in the production is executed with extreme finesse and I have to say that the life-size figure, I presume to have been representative of Oscar Wilde, is highly emotive and carries a weight and gravity on stage. Likewise, the musical accompaniment, provided by Gregory Emfietzis, provides a consistency amid the chaos and certainly sets the tone, raising the stakes where required.
Unfortunately, this is where the cohesion ceases and there are a number of onstage choices that seem questionable, whether intentional or perhaps due to circumstance. These include moments where performers deliver dialogue to each other, directly reading from an obvious script. Likewise, there are moments where characterisation is completely abandoned and the momentum paused following lines delivered incorrectly. Instances such as this break the tension of the piece and undermine the illusion which limits the impact overall.
There are also a number of scenes that are not delivered in English. While this carries identifiable connotations about the universal nature of the theme, from a practical sense it makes it somewhat difficult to engage.
Whatever your thoughts, there is definitely much to consider in this production and should you attend, I can guarantee there will be plenty to discuss on the journey home.
Review by Cassandra Griffin
At the heart of things
A dance-puppetry performance inspired by Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis.
Contact improvisation, visual imagery, garbage film and devised text, creates a contemporary adaptation that dives into female sexuality, queer identity and homophobia.
In a dystopian world where growing fear takes front stage, two young women Lilly and Nina are dancing in a nightclub. When a gunman enters and opens fire, nothing will be the same again.
Lilly is trying to make sense in a senseless world. What does it mean to be a woman? What does it mean to fall in love? Out of her frustration, Oscar Wilde will be born, to guide her, page by page, towards rediscovering her sexuality and womanhood.
Produced and presented by Vertebra
Hosted by The Cockpit
Tuesday 14th and Thursday 16th November – 7:00pm – 2017