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Edinburgh Fringe - blackSKYwhite

'Astronomy For Insects'

by Lea Marshall

August 8, 2007 -- Assembly Aurora Nova, St. Stephen's Church, Edinburgh, Scotland

EEEEEEEEEEEEE ggggggggggggggggg ww%%%%%%%%ww NNNNNNNNNNN oooo yyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy lllllllllllllll 777777777777777777 qqqqqqqqqqq. ********^^^^^^???

That’s a bit of what it felt like to watch blackSKYwhite’s Astronomy For Insects. You may ask, what the f***? And that, my friends, is exactly right. You will ask the same thing when you see this show. You may not enjoy it, you may in fact find it distinctly unpleasant or unnerving, but that is precisely why you must see it. These artists do not simply discard narrative – that fundamental structure underpinning so much of our understanding of the world – they beat it back with a stick.

Tall, vertical tubes of light frame the stage. Two large metal doors, closed, dominate the center. Throughout the piece, the doors slide apart to reveal bizarre creatures, sometimes insect-like, sometimes vaguely human, sometimes alien. They shuffle forward and dance in strange, tightly-wound sequences of chattering, twitching movement. In this cold, foreign world, creatures interact with each other in ways variously teasing, caring, cruel, or comic. From my notes: “face pushing through empty coat collar, like cocoon, head jiggling. Hands shimmer out of sleeves to grasp canes. Is it really a human in there?” Or: “little white man pulls clown’s mask off with his teeth to reveal grey, deathly mask/man, who then strangles him.”

In frustration, we find these movements and interactions reveal nothing and, seemingly, mean nothing. Thus brilliantly, maddeningly, do the performers echo the incessant noise and frantic, often empty rhythms of many humans’ daily lives. Not that this would occur to you as you watch another white clad, hunched, sharp-elbowed figure totter towards you, silently mumbling as lights flicker and a noise-filled sound score crashes over your head.

But upon leaving this show and then processing it (most likely over a pint at the closest pub), trying to shake some of the grotesque images in your mind into any kind of order, you begin to understand. blackSKYwhite refuse to indulge our nagging human need for narrative and emotional immediacy; they assault us with imagery we can’t easily relate to, with figures who elicit vague dread more than empathy. And if we quiet our inner clamor for order, if we just sit there and take it, their painstaking work succeeds. Because we will think and talk about it for days afterwards, and we will never forget it.

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