Having met in a hotel in Edinburgh, we are led through the clear night to an old house where we are given headsets and are seated, traverse-style, in the garden.
This is Dark Matter, a site sensitive performance by Vision Mechanics, and there is anticipation in the air. Whatever happens now, I think, I am already enjoying myself. The moment, the event, the energy, is already here and it is as much about the cold and the outside and the wondering as it is about the performance itself.
Exploring themes of grief, loss and desire Dark Matter attempts a journey to the recesses of the mind; to the dark matter, as yet undiscovered and undefined. The show is based around a woman who is waiting in the garden for her love to appear.
This outdoor space was put to good use by performer Emma Anderson who moved around with both defiance and respect for the surroundings for this was a place which held the ghosts of her past (and future). The natural landscape was beautifully lit; Charlie Macintyre’s lighting design was understated yet it subtly enhanced the contours of the production.
The soundscape, which is mixed live for each performance, also added to the effect. My fear that the headphones might create a distancing effect was proved wrong. Bees buzzed into my ears at one point and I was desperate for them to stop, convinced they were actually there; sounds seemed to come from different areas of the garden – at one point a flock of birds prompted me to look up.
Initially the woman tells us about the beautiful love between her mother and father which resulted in her birth, something symbolised in Chris Lee’s lyrical text as a fluttering bird. The symbolism of nature continues throughout the piece and sometimes it felt as if there was a distance between nature as written and spoken and the environment itself.
The text drives the performance, giving us a window into a confused and tortured soul. Anderson was outstanding as a woman completely immersed in her own world whilst having an insatiable desire to be connected to another one; she moved effortlessly through stories of her parents’ love to suggestions of time spent in a mental hospital to anguished pleas for the person whom she has come out into the garden to wait for her.
There were times when things became more visceral, when anguish and the hint of something animal came out and it seemed that things were beginning to disintegrate. Powerful as this was, I wanted more; I felt as if the piece at times taunted us, taking us to the edge but no further, promising a crescendo which never quite came.