[2010060] En Masse

En Masse

Arts House @ Space Theatre

7:00pm, Sun 28 Feb 2010

Walking from the Odeon in Norwood back to the Festival Centre certainly was interesting; first I had to negotiate the wobbling crowd on the Parade for the Food and Wine Festival, got inadvertently smacked in the face by an overly-enthusiastic rubbish collector, bumped into Lili La Scala (who told me to pull my blogging finger out – oops), and had a chat with someone whilst queuing for En Masse: “I saw you at Dr Brown the other night,” he said. “Oh?” I asked, trying to recollect where I’d seen this chap before, “were you on the door there?”

“No,” he said, “I remember seeing you onstage.”

That made me smile.

As the doors opened, we weren’t exactly let in, more corralled. Staff quite pointedly guided punters into the Space, eerily low-lit and murky. There’s a large circle of very flat… well, “chairs” gives the wrong idea; the intent is to have the audience essentially laying down, head slightly elevated, to observe a projection screen that lay above the centre of the circle. We remove our shoes and settle in; the performance starts, and the ambient lights slowly drop their already timid intensity as the projection screen slowly changes from black to mostly black, swirling organic shapes gradually becoming visible.

For five minutes I struggle against the quiet, organo-synthetic soundscapes that waft through the air; but I’ve been burning too many candles, and sleep deprivation has caught up with me. The soft noises, the gentle lulling light, all conspire to send me to the deepest, most restful sleep I’ve had in a fortnight. It was divine.

When I awoke, the Space was completely, inkily, black. I prop myself up to see if the performance had actually finished and I was alone here; I vaguely make out the shapes of my neighbours, lying restfully, and wonder if they’re asleep too. Through the darkness, a hint of movement: the sole human in the performance, Genevieve Lacey, slowly moves around the circle, playing various wind instruments (two flutes, maybe? I don’t really know) and making a few vocal effects. The projection screens, meanwhile, display images of birds flying, grouping, splitting… flocking.

Lacey slinks back into the darkness, the screens ease back into darkness, and the house lights – ever-so-gently – come up.

That’s it. That’s the entire show. People sit up, some with a look of confusion and bewilderment on their faces; others rub their eyes. Still others remain still on the floor, and partners gently nudge them awake with a shy look of shame. We file outside.

I check my watch – I must have only slept for ten minutes in that performance, but I felt remarkably refreshed. And that, unfortunately, was the highlight of En Masse for me; sure, it had all the hallmarks of a singular vision, carefully crafted… but in the end, it failed to engage me artistically, encouraging me only to switch off my brain and rest.

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