Any lover of theatre will be able to look back and pinpoint a moment in their theatre-going and tell you that a production that was the best thing they have seen. They’ll remember certain nuances of the production, be it a line, a movement, perhaps a performer or a particular piece of music. These memories will be stored away and when required they’ll be remembered, and the theatregoer will be transported back to the theatre, remembering vividly what it was that had them – that fluttering moment in their heart that made them realise that this production is the one that they always look for. For me, seeing Ceasarean Section. Essays on Suicide for a second time, after witnessing their 2009 run at the Barbican Theatre, once again pinpoints the beauty and excited moment when I find theatre that I’ve been looking for all year. It is a breathtaking piece that wriggles inside of you and dances a powerful and primal dance of desire, lust and repulsion. Never has my heart soured so high – this, this, is what every theatregoer strives for.
Performed by the Polish Teatr Zar, the company create a score of polyphonic songs based upon Bulgarian, Romanian, Icelandic and Chechen influences. This they deliver in such a manner that the vocals resonate within your body and threaten to burst out. Their primitive songs hark back to a day before electronic devices and feed upon the human connection between voice and body. It is clear that this bodily resonance is at the heart of the company’s work, with Ceasarean Section depicting a series of physical moments where women reach the breaking point, standing on a ledge between suicide and life. This is beautifully portrayed, with dances between couples and solo pieces that summon the demons within.
The design of the piece makes much use of the breaking of a glass as a symbol of destruction and fragility. The audience is plunged into darkness and suddenly echoing around the space comes the smashing of glass after glass. A channel dug into the centre of the stage is full of glass fragments, the performers treading over and through, scattering fragments across the stage, and perilously dancing atop. This, and the superb lighting that evokes loneliness, adds much visual spectacle to the aural aspects of the production.
It is the vocal, however, that reigns in Ceasarean Section. Whilst the images and movement evoke the physical portrayal of destruction and saviour that suicide teeters between, the choral singing does so much more. It evades the body, provoking an emotive quality that reduces you to tears. Resonating, and calling upon the primitive and earth-like qualities that humans posses, I was rendered speechless. This is not just masterful theatre, this is living, breathing theatre of epic proportions.
***** – 5/5 stars
Ceasarean Section. Essays on Suicide is playing at Summerhall until 20 August as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. For more information and tickets, see the Edinburgh Fringe website.