Whenever I hear the term “experimental” applied to an art form, I’m automatically suspicious. Most experimental poetry is rubbish and the same is true, I think, in all art forms. Most people only imagine they are being experimental when, in fact, they are either
a) doing what they’ve seen other experimental artists doing – except badly
b) doing what millions of people have done before, but not realising it because they know so little about the art form they are attempting to practise.
However, now and again, there’s a real triumph and I witnessed one yesterday at the Edinburgh Festival fringe. If you get the chance to see Aurora Borealis (and the last performance is tomorrow, Saturday!), don’t miss out. It’s a terrific piece of innovative theatre. 12 noon at Dance Base, Grassmarket, Edinburgh.
There is no dialogue, only jazz piano music and movement. The venue has a glass roof (an important prop as it turns out) and a giant mirror opposite the audience, so that you can see everyone at all times. The set is minimal but everything is vital, just as every word is vital to a taut poem. The performance plays on ideas of self-image, sadness, and transformation that can come following an encounter with the unknown or numinous. If that sounds serious, let me assure you that the performance is also unpretentious, very funny, the timing is perfect (though also, I believe, improvised), and the dancing is of high quality.
It lasts 35 minutes and is entirely captivating. Humour and intensity are successfully held in tension throughout. For an audience member, it feels more like an experience than a spectacle. Not theatre you’re liable to forget in a hurry.