Greenside @ Royal Terrace, Edinburgh
August 18, 2015
Comuna de Pedra (石頭公社), a non-profit art association from Macau that focuses on physical and dance theatre productions. Jenny Mok’s Something Between Nothing and Everything (凝視流動) is a fascinating concoction that mixes a dash of Chinese philosophy in with some dance, theatre and multimedia in a presentation of ordinary, everyday moments and events in the life of four girls.
The action takes place in a sort of Neverland; a place of memories and flashbacks. Something Between Nothing and Everything is actually about many things. The stories that are conveyed are very ordinary, and about things we would not normally give a second glance or thought to, and yet, somehow, they very quickly become special, extraordinary even, and it’s not long before you are well and truly drawn in. It’s strangely compelling, even moving. The hour or so just flew past.
A lot of the work’s success comes from the integrity with which the stories are told, and some by clever stretching and pausing of time. The audience arrives, for example, to find the performers frozen in the space. It’s an everyday space full of everyday things. A small TV in a corner plays CCTV film from the front of the venue, providing a link with the real world outside. There’s a sense that you have come in halfway through something; that someone has hit the pause button in these people’s lives. Thanks to the sparse lighting, there’s a slightly odd atmosphere. We know something has happened but we know not what.
A large part of the piece deals with the story of a journey to a noodle place. It’s told blow by blow and with such clarity that it’s easy to visualise events. Every event and moment is detailed; even the time at which they occurred.
Elsewhere there’s a lot of chalking on the floor (sadly it was not possible to see what), including around the prone figure of one of the performers; a comment on life and death, one presumes. The work sometimes verges on tanztheater. Lots happens, and it’s a job to keep track of things. But in another way, nothing happens. Yet still you watch intently.
Although the noodle shop story was largely in English, parts of the dialogue was in Cantonese. Although the translations were off centre on the back wall, the necessary switching of focus rarely caused a problem.
The dance has its more athletic moments but often it’s wonderfully melting and effortless. It comes and goes ease, the repetitive nature of life being neatly reflected in it and the soundscape. A personal favourite was a section to the incomparable Taiwanese artist Teresa Teng singing The Moon Represents My Heart (月亮代表我的心), but it was a close-run thing.
The great thing about the Fringe is that you do occasionally get some very nice surprises. I don’t pretend to understand everything I saw here, but all told it was a rather different yet rather special hour. I left smiling.