RITUAL

YAYAYA AYAYAY // Ultimate Dancer and Robbie Thomson

Entering one by one through dark curtains, the start of this performance feels ritualistic. Inside: darkness. Ushers guide the audience using glow-in-the-dark gloves that gleam like palm pilots. The eye is drawn irresistibly to every scrap of phosphorescent tape and each tiny LED – the depth of the dark is disorientating. But rather than confuse, it seems designed only to gently remove our preoccupation with time and space. Darkness can do that, especially when coupled with isolation, like people who have spent weeks living in unlit caves, or five days in a darkness retreat in Berlin conceiving a show. Our eyes are given time to adapt to the dark, but even though the performance is just an hour, it is still hard to know how fast time is passing, if at all. 

The Greek meaning of ‘theatre’ was ‘the seeing place’. To perform in total darkness may seem counterproductive, yet it has been a rich source of experimentation since at least 1998, when Battersea Arts Centre put on a seminal programme of theatre, music, dinner, comedy and poetry, all consumed in the dark. This season's aim was to unleash the power of the spoken word. In YAYAYA AYAYAY, the few spoken words are slowed, stretched and repeated with the help of digital manipulation amid throbbing tones and waveforms from the mixing desk. The sounds that make up the words are isolated, distorted, reunited; new articulations emerge – mantras and roars – before revealing their original meaning.

Apparently tethered to the sound of the voice, lights encroach fleetingly and then start to dispel the darkness, moving through it, revealing something of the space around. Under the right conditions, the human eye can respond to a single photon of light. For most people, the light continually around us stops us ever seeing that sensitively. In the half-light, the tenth-light, the hundredth-light of this performance, the eye catches and latches on to glimpses, mirages, illusions; a primal body materialising from the shimmering gloom and fading back into darkness. The effect is mind-altering, magical, cathartic.

And whether it was seeing this performance or just the start of spring in the city, the light the following morning had a different, more magical quality.

- Michael Regnier

 

Links relevant to this diagnosis

YAYAYA AYAYAY - Ultimate Dancer

Ultimate Dancer - Exeunt

Performing Arts' Relationship with Ritual - UNESCO

Why Does It Take So Long for Our Eyes to Adjust to A Darkened Room?  - Scientific American 

The Caves of Forgotten Time – The Atlantic

BAC’s Playing in the Dark Programme,1998

Theatre in the Dark: Shadow, Gloom and Blackout in Contemporary Theatre (2017)

Life In the Dark – Neuroanthropology Blog 

What Are the Limits of Human Vision? - BBC Future

GENERATION ZERO / Lamphouse Theatre

GENERATION ZERO / Lamphouse Theatre

In a world increasingly mediated and sustained through ever more subtle technologies, it seems appropriate that the protagonists of Generation Zero meet through an online dating app. Their blossoming romance develops through a particular set of millennial anxieties and rituals. The strife at an unresponded message with a read receipt, the bonding over twee children's literature, the small unfoldings of mutual appreciations and desires.

 

BUBBLE SCHMEISIS / Nick Cassenbaum

BUBBLE SCHMEISIS / Nick Cassenbaum

Cultural identity is made out of little, everyday things, just as the character of a neighbourhood is made up of the everyday rather than the exceptional. The best sign of gentrification in London’s East End isn’t the Cereal Killer Café, but the slow closure of its greasy spoons and corner shops and their replacement with more Pret A Mangers. Nick Cassenbaum’s performance is about Jewish identity, and the self-care ritual of the Schvitz, an intergenerational steam bath that unfolds as a psychogeographic narrative of the Jewish East End. It has orbiting interests of personal, urban and cultural history, and through them questions the identities of individuals, groups and cities.