(remor) takes place in what is probably the smallest space at the fringe: a 3 x 4 metre metal box. This box is actually ½ a metre longer than the original performance space – a cell in a disused prison in Mallorca. In this dark and dank space, Marta Barceló and Joan Miquel Artigues (who also devised and directed the piece) dance passionately for their freedom. (remor) only lasts eleven minutes but this does not decrease its power – it’s like throwing back a shot of tequila instead of sipping on a rum and coke.
This is a glimpse into the lonely, tormented souls of an incarcerated man and woman, though beyond this there isn’t much narrative and the plot could be interpreted in many ways – we do not know why they are imprisoned or whether it is to be taken literally at all. The choreography begins with simple, stylised everyday movements: they both unfurl themselves from their comfortless beds, then the man carefully opens a precious letter as the woman pops some pills from a plastic medicine bottle. I’m not sure how much we are being invited to wonder if those pills are actually something other than medicine, but it becomes apparent here that it is not just physical but mental incarceration we should consider. This naturalistic start allows us to get a sense of character before the style swiftly changes into much more abstract and energetic dance.
Most of the dance takes place on and around a brutally thin, metal bunkbed. This is used incredibly imaginatively as a performance playground – they hang upside down and climb and fall from one bunk to the other in a myriad ways. As they hurl themselves around the beds, every step resonates on the metallic surface and they rock the frame so that it produces worrying creaking sounds. At times they are partly suspended between the frame and the cell walls, which also shake as they bound against them. Though both performers are clearly nimble and athletic, this isn’t a graceful dance, it is rough and heavy – the movement of those who are indeed strong, but also exhausted. The characters’ yearning for freedom and frustration with inertia is palpably communicated. There is also certainly a compelling chemistry between the two; however, their relationship bobs backwards and forwards between affection and antagonism so frequently that it takes sense away from the piece, particularly given its diminutive length.
Five audience members sit on stools, on which torches had been placed; as the lights go down, these audience members are invited to light the performance. The torchlights create a wistfully gentle, flickering effect that embellishes and extends the choreography quite magically. As the audience members try to follow the performers with their torches it adds an extra rhythmic dynamic. They also draw attention to our potential complicity in the characters entrapment. As a torch-bearer myself, I did find it somewhat distracting – I worried about whether I was lighting the piece well for the other audience members.
The music is low-key and instrumental, adding atmosphere without intruding on the foregrounded physical intimacy, and a range of electrical buzzes and whirs create a cold, inhuman soundscape. Even though (remor) is abstract and dialogue-free, the naturalistic set keeps us aware of the reality that engendered the piece. The effect of being in a tiny, windowless room is pretty universal. Incarceration will never stop being an important issue. (remor) isn’t groundbreaking, but it is a beautiful, creative and worthy contribution to art that represents the horrors of imprisonment.
**** – 4/5 stars
(remor) is playing at C nova as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. For more information and tickets, see the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.