Somnambules and the 7 Deadly Sins[author-post-rating] (4/5 stars)

Somnambules and the 7 Deadly Sins is a piece that will stay with you long after the last notes of the epic soundscape have died away. Visceral and beautiful, powerful and tender, this is a show that makes an impact. Essentially a dance piece, it has a strong narrative element – although quite what the story is I would struggle to articulate.

Tanya Khabarova sits, slumped over a desk in the light of a lamp. As she twitches awake like some kind of mad scientist, her shaved head gleams in the light and she strokes a human skull. It doesn’t feel overdone, though. It’s all breathlessly tense. Yael Karavan is plucked from the audience and the two perform an intricate, fluid duet before Karavan’s character is forced to sign a contract in blood. From here, the piece really soars.

Karavan’s character moves through different scenarios and settings, sometimes in conflict with Khabarova, sometimes in harmony. The two are astonishing dancers, and the choreography is consistently surprising. It’s a visually stunning piece, truly gorgeous to look at, and the outstanding soundscape score (Calum Bowen) keeps everything feeling vivid and pulsating. Some of the sequences feels a little long – there are parts that become repetitious – but on the whole this is a gorgeously enegerising and fascinating piece.

The seven deadly sins motif is used sparingly. The two dancers are sometimes angelic/demonic, good/evil, prisoner/captor, and sometimes they move together in something that looks like love. The somnambulant state is hinted at, and the piece moves between dream and nightmare. The stage is both caccoon and prison. As they writhe and try to fly, you really believe that these are otherworldly beings.

Bowen’s music is astounding – a hellish cacophony resolves into a heartbeat, stirring sacred music pulses with belief, percussive beats and crackling white noise punctuate different sequences. There is some beautiful shadow play, where the two women are silhouetted behind a screen, turning into a two-headed monster. Another scene, playing with a lighted globe, also lingers in the memory.

The ending is a little odd. A mushroom cloud looms over the stage as the two tear open rubbish bags and strew the stage with refuse. The light gleaming on hundreds of plastic bags is strangely beautiful, and the glee they take in dancing through the destruction is aresting. This scene slightly outstays its welcome, though, and lessens the overall impact of an otherwise deeply powerful show.

Somnambules is truly beautiful performance and a fitting showcase for two exceptional dancers. With a little tightening up here and there, it could be breathtaking.

Somnambules and the 7 Deadly Sins is at Summerhall until 25 August. For more information and tickets visit the Edinburgh Fringe website.