Nobody Hears the Axe Fall is structured by several short dance sequences that explore breath, darkness and control. A duet between Oliver Carruthers and Rachel Wood emphasises breath with every touch and acrobatic lift. Gasps and groans are exhaled sharply and loudly as they dance in the void. I heard the audience gasp and hold their own breath during a particularly ambitious stunt. The vocal soundscape becomes unsettling and makes me feel for the pain Wood is evoking.
Georgia Bond smears white paint over her face and body while she screams and laughs hysterically. The cast responds from backstage like a sitcom laugh track. This segment also made me feel uncomfortable and almost alienated, afraid that I wasn’t understanding the symbolism. Despite my concerns, the show also offers some lighthearted surprises which I won’t spoil here.
The motif of water is explored through many staging elements. A video projection displays a series of closeups of the performers holding their breath underwater. These videos create a chapter-like structure while the live dancers continue to move like underwater puppets. Centre stage, a trap door reveals a shallow pool. The pool is first acknowledged when Sophie Greig leans dangerously over the water and holds pieces of paper above her head and recites pining poetry. She slowly sheds the sheets from her hands and they drop to the pool “as the petals of a rose”. Later two female dancers lay in the water, like two pre-Raphaelite Ophelias floating among the poetic petals.
Tony Black’s lighting creates an ethereal world by using spotlights sparingly. A nude silhouette stands ominously under the golden backlit doorway. The costumes add to the surrealism. Soft blue button up shirts are worn backwards and give the effect of a moving Rene Magritte painting. The dancers fluidly undress and redress throughout.
The choreography employs an incredible use of line. Two dancers create a triangle by leaning on each other, Greig’s head becomes the fulcrum against Carruthers’ chest. The dancers group together in a mesmerising ripple as they sauté with the pulsing music. The movement is demanding, clean and impressive.
The finale is, in one word, amazing. Lengths of foil blows across the stage by an unseen fan. One by one, the dancers surrender themselves to the thundering sheets, clinging to their soft movements like water against skin.
While I left the theatre concerned that I didn’t quite “get” the abstract performance, Nobody Hears the Axe Fall is, after all, a piece of theatre that asks you to just experience and “be present with us” in the dream world. The show’s sophisticated and dramatic staging techniques successfully transports the viewer and I’m curious to hear your interpretation.
Nobody Hears the Axe Fall is on at 7:30pm at Circa until the 10th March. For tickets click here.
For the full Program visit the Fringe Website.