I think we’ve all heard it before; Edinburgh needs more space and opportunity for explorative and grassroots theatre, dance, performance, music and everything else in the blurry in between (outwith the fringe, of course). Which is why, I think it’s fair to say, a performance night like Anatomy is necessary and vital to the growth of the arts in Edinburgh. The sell out success of its first and second nights also proved how much it was wanted and appreciated.
This third night offers up another spread of challenging, thought provoking and sometimes dividing performance. As Harry Giles, one of our cheery comperes and organisers promises; there will always be something you love as equally as something you dislike.
The theme is Panto-apocalypse, and in this seasonal, cheery vein we’re encouraged to dress up as whoever we’ve always wished to be, now is our final chance. So I enter the auditorium as a spy, in trench coat and trilby, and about me sits a man in a dress and a woman in a bright green curly wig. Some are less keen than others, but the atmosphere is easygoing, enthusiastic and infectious, spurred on by our two eager comperes, Giles and Ali Maloney.
First we had Stephen Paterson, with a rendition of Alvin Lucier’s I Am Sitting In A Room; a 1969 sound work that involves the artist narrating and recording a text, and then playing the recording back into the room, re-recording and repeating the process repeatedly. The effect is one slow disintegration, reduced to electronic warbles and tinny hums of the resonating frequencies of the room. Unfortunately, Paterson’s overly zealous adjustments to the volume and output do more to distract us from the meditative qualities of the audio.
Next up, The Blood that Binds, performed by Laura Edwards, Calum MacAskill, and Janine Fern, had potential somewhere in its vast, tangled mass of vein like ropes. A powerful image, concentrated under the warm up lighting of a heater, extenuating the subtleties of the performers slow, undulating movements amid the knots. It was too long and overwrought, however, to hold attention and lacked any shifts in dynamic that the soundtrack suggested.
Closing the first act, I’ll Be Home for Christmas: A Suicide Note, performed by Victoria Bianchi, brought us a forthright message as we head into apocalypse. Bianchi is an engaging and bright-eyed performer but her tone is excessively heavy-handed and the final carpe diem message is confused considering her resolve to end her life rather than wait it out.
Oli Benton’s Walk opened the second act, a seasoned artist at Anatomy, receiving a standing ovation at the last event. His cinematography is elegant and slick and the concept is wonderfully simple and witty; a clubber’s circular journey in and out of the urban and the rural. Look him up.
Next, Jamie Wardrop and Rebecca Morris’s To Elucidate examined various absurd social moments and anxieties with playful humor. It’s very ‘scratchy’ and fragmented, glazing over an endearing childish romance, a bizarre doctor patient scene, and a rather labored reading of a personal statement. It needs a little more pace and precision, but both performers are engaging and entertaining. It is this kind of thing that’ll surely benefit from the opportunity to test and improve itself.
Bouncing of the panto theme, the loveable Eddy Dreadnought’s The Snow Queen (interlude song) is a comical, endearing version of a ‘repeat after me song’, infused with a little dark sarcasm and slightly awkward audience interactions.
Closing the third act, Uranus, performed by Moreno Solinas of Bloom! dance collective, is striking, beautiful and frankly bizarre and by far the highlight of the night. Curled onto a table with his pants round his ankles, his back and bare bum to the audience, he opens with a spine tingling rendition of Puccini’s ‘Nessun Dorma’, his arse contracting and relaxing to emulate the movements of his mouth. The initial reaction is dumbfounded silence, then laughter, finally awe. This is followed by a brief romance enacted by his two hands, middle and index figure gracefully running across his body, to meet, woo and make, surprisingly rough love. Next a mischievous poem reminds us of the importance of wearing protection, breaking the spell of the aria. Playfully, with equal intensity and precision, Solinas shifts between the beautiful, the erotic, and the rude. The final section, finds Solinas climbing his way into the audience, crawling, snake like and dynamic, proffering a handful of saliva to unwilling audience members, suggestive of sexual infection and repulsion. The interaction and nudity in such close proximity might be considered excessively challenging and invasive, but executed with such control and strength it was nothing short of astonishing.
Opening the final act, Opul comprised of JL Williams and James Iremonger, is unfortunately the other side of the coin; a blend of dark, florid poetry, fierce, industrial electronic music; and some superfluous projections of forests. William’s delivery lacked the ferocity the supposedly menacing poetry needed to work; instead it’s awkward and disconcerting, performed with a gauche smile, which allows the affectations of the grim text to take precedence.
Next, Charlie Murphy and Friends present Walk the Line, a film of a ‘guerilla dressage’ performance that sadly lets down the expectation that the jaunty horses might step out of the safety and tradition of dressage and rebel just a little more.
Last of all Rebecca Green is Scheduling Spontaneity, relishing the potential for embracing the end of the world, offering up final kisses by commission, replete with your choice of costumes and styles. It’s a little absurd, even bewildering, but has overwhelming heart. Green is a charming and wonderfully honest performer and her cheeky personal repartees with the audience are endearing and sensitive.
It has to be said, this wasn’t the finest selection I’ve seen at Anatomy, but that wont stop me from returning, because it doesn’t matter that it’s not all top notch, highly polished or exceptionally groundbreaking performance. The point is Anatomy invites and offers up a chance for experimentation, collaboration, feedback and learning. As promised the night presented a bounty of artist’s practices of all kinds, many I certainly wouldn’t have stumbled upon alone. Touch wood that long may it continue, as long as the world doesn’t end.