Review: It Folds – Summerhall, Edinburgh

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First published in The Times, Wednesday August 10 2016

Two Stars

The prologue is delivered by a narrator draped in a white sheet, like one of the ghosts from Scooby Doo, but that isn’t the oddest aspect of this collaboration between two of Ireland’s leading performance companies. The dream-like collage that follows includes a sequence in which the front and back ends of a pantomime horse attempt to pull in different directions and the arrival of a choir singing about decomposition. David Lynch would be proud.

Death and the grieving process are the apparent themes of this show, created by innovative theatre-makers Brokentalkers in collaboration with Junk Ensemble, the dance theatre company. There is a narrative, of sorts, about a teenage boy who was abducted and murdered following an argument with his father. The boy appears in various guises throughout, most notably as a deadpan ghost, observing the reaction and aftermath to his own death.

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Pic: Fukoshi Sakaushi

Otherwise, the production feels intensely fragmented: a parade of images relating to childhood and mortality. Some of these have a certain macabre beauty, including the sequence in which the young boy dances and embraces his killer. The action is also shot-through with haunting music, performed by the startlingly large cast, which includes both Irish and local performers.

 

In snatches the piece does exert a certain icy power, but on the whole it is frustratingly short of content, with the company padding out the 50-minute running time with some familiar devised theatre tropes, including a scene in which two characters run through a word association game.

It Folds

Pic: Luca Truffarelli

Brokentalkers explored similar territory a few years back in the excellent Have I No Mouth. Yet, where that production, which forthrightly depicted one family’s struggle to recalibrate following a sudden death, really tore into its subject, to shattering effect, It Folds barely scratches the surface. While pleasing to the eye and ear, this piece feels like a sketch for a longer work, rather than the finished product. Even as the huge ensemble gathers onstage at the end, the overriding response runs along the lines of “Is that all there is?”

 

Box office: 0131 560 1581, to Aug 28

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