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Edinburgh Fringe - Teatr Piesn Kozla (Song of the Goat Theatre)

'Lacrimosa'

by Lea Marshall

August 9, 2007 -- Assembly Aurora Nova, St. Stephen's Church, Edinburgh, Scotland

During Fringe 2004, Song of the Goat Theatre seared the stage at St. Stephen’s Church with “Chronicles – A Lamentation”, a riveting re-telling of the Epic of Gilgamesh. This year their most recent work, “Lacrimosa”, investigates the story of the medieval French town Arras, attacked first by the plague in 1485, and then by recrimination and violence three years later, as the surviving townsfolk struggled to come to grips with the barbarity to which they succumbed in the face of the ravaging disease. Although “Lacrimosa” does not burn with the same white heat felt in “Chronicles”, it nonetheless weaves a potent spell.

In “Lacrimosa”, as in “Chronicles”, the company’s vocal work charged the atmosphere with emotion, whether dread, defiance, mourning or (usually momentary) jubilation; this production’s music was sourced from Mozart’s Requiem. As the dim lights brightened in the opening section, six figures draped in gauzy, ragged white appeared, seated on benches and singing the “Agnus Dei”. One woman (Anna Zubrzycki) interrupted them with shrill, keening cries until they abruptly broke off singing and leapt to their feet.

Because most of the dialogue or declamations are spoken in Polish, much of the audience must depend on imagery and tone to tell the story. The group merged principals and chorus, blurring distinctions between them so that as a whole, it amplified the shifting dynamics between victims and perpetrators. Two figures, a Jew (Matthieu Leloup) and a Girl (Anna Krotoska) soon emerged as scapegoats for the town’s wrath, sharpened into a dangerous tool by the Bishop (Marcin Rudy).

The company’s movement, deeply grounded in the broad base of second position plié, channeled power and weight into the performance. A program note revealed that the primary movement language was inspired by Anestenaria, an ancient possession cult of “firewalkers”. This yielded compelling sequences, such as a debate among the men through leaps, gestures, and sharp, hissing breaths, or an orgy scene during which the Girl (whose white costume had cleverly shifted inside out from white to red) was tossed (or tossed herself?) among the men until all appeared exhausted and horrified by what they had done.

Although drawn in by “Lacrimosa’s” spiraling energy and intensity of performance, I missed the greater breadth of visual and kinetic imagery that powered “Chronicles”. Still, stage pictures such as a large book (The Bible), held open at a gathering with pages suddenly on fire, casting the only light, or two men, their faces shrouded by fabric, processing slowly forward with two women, heads veiled, gave the eye and heart a great deal to contemplate about the nature of good, evil, choice and responsibility.

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