The horizon is frozen. It stretches, with the ocean and the sky at a stalemate. Waves lick at the corners of the space, the sound of spray rushing underfoot. Undisturbed, the stage, in a scenic design by Will Holt, is like the face of a compass – a magnetic field made of wood and surrounded by a marble staircase. Seagulls call out overhead and a haunting piano score draws Eric Valentine (played by Thomas Heyes) within reach. With a suitcase in each hand, he climbs. Today is the first day of his new job at Echo Point Lighthouse – December 22nd, 1978. The winter solstice. The shortest day of the year.
Lighthouse Keeper Bernard Humphries (Dom Czapski) extends a hand in welcome, his fingers blackened with grease. A door cracks open, and all is silent, save for the ticking of a grandfather clock. Eric is an artist and an intelligent lad, though not without his idiosyncrasies. The disembodied voice of his mother floats across the surface of the action, her concerns made known by an uneasy, if endearing description of Eric’s personality. These eccentric characteristics seep into his pattern of movement, with his long, lean frame led as if by a pencil.
The ghost of Bernard’s wife Sophia (Marta Masiero) is with him at all hours. Their partner work speaks a voluminous subtext, their bodies soft and fluid, half drenched in shadow. This collision of past and present makes for a giddy watch, with traumatic memories affecting both men. Often, choreography acts as a caesura, breaking from prose before attaching itself to the beginning of a new passage. When Eric and Bernard interact, they do so mechanically, with repetitive phrases. The pair drink ‘Moonshine’ from china mugs, this homemade spirit fuelling charming moments of dialogue, as well as inviting in an increasing sense of dread.
The performers enter and exit the world of the play through four trapdoors on the floor of the stage. They act as portals, their depth seemingly endless. When a sea shanty catches their tongues, the two men build a lantern room, fitting hinges to cage a lamp and lens. Their voices carry in harmony, and soon fall into frightening stories of the monstrous ‘Cannibal Keepers’. Fear hangs in the air, made thicker still by the hissing of dry ice. Then, fog crashes against them as they hear rock ripping into the helm of a boat. There is only one survivor.
Masiero’s body folds in on itself like paper. As a disturbed victim of a shipwreck, her performance is beguiling. Her joints bend at odd angles, the whistling of waterproof clothing terrifying as a seizure takes hold. Amnesia sits in her eyes, giving her a round, glassy gaze. This fixed stare remains constant even when her limbs begin move of their own accord. Her flexibility too, feels dangerous. The absence of humanity within her gives way to the presence of the surreal, with both Eric and Bernard left torn as to her true identity.
Unfortunately, in projecting their separate experiences of grief upon her, their lack of clarity becomes contagious. Suddenly, any suspension of disbelief is snagged on these looming, unanswered questions. This means that the first half of The Point of Echoes is stronger than the second, and at two hours in length, the piece could have been made shorter without sacrificing the potential of the material. Nevertheless, it is a valiant piece of dance-theatre, with enough immersive elements to keep one submerged until it enters its final phase.
The Point of Echoes was performed at The Place from 20 – 22 September 2018. Click here for more details.