Sitting at the bar at The Coronet Theatre in Notting Hill is like climbing inside a rare artefact. A one-of-a-kind doll’s house perhaps – the pride and joy of an eccentric aunt. The floor is on a slant, with every treasure caught in a lopsided grin. Mismatched in the extreme, families of furniture are thrust together atop a jigsaw of rugs. In the centre, a bed is demanding of its gravity, with figures lolling across a heavy quilt. One wall is decorated with a collection of vintage handbags, another with a mosaic of mirrors. From the bar (fashioned from the lid of a piano), the smacking lips of a bottle can be heard as a cork is pulled from its mouth.
When The Breath Choir breeze through – dressed in overalls and fuchsia gloves – it is to escort audience members to the world of the play. “How would you rate your breath today?” They enquire, socks sticking out from the fabric gathered at their ankles. Together, we pad into what feels like a chapel – a sage, holy place filled with the small roar of a typewriter.
Created by Caroline Wright, The Breath Control Project encompasses a series of artworks using the breath as its material. It’s third instalment, Breath Control: Osmosis, sees an interaction between performer and spectator on the basis of breath as a gift. Here, the group exhale, catching air and throwing it to a partner. Coughs are rolled across the floor and sighs snatched from outstretched fingers, with gasps and wheezes melting into a chorus of notes. Led by acclaimed mezzo-soprano Laura Wright and flautist Carla Rees, the resulting soundscape is an immersive and chilling one.
Invited to add to their shrine, plastic pouches are blown up and tied at the neck. Once placed delicately amongst other makeshift balloons, one is ushered out with a quiet urgency. A certain malaise accompanies the crowd back into the bar, where a model ship hangs from above, its sails caught by the wave of chatter rolling beneath.
Contrary to Wright’s installation (Breath Control: Notes) – an overwhelming solo endeavour which asks its participant to donate a single, sung note into a bespoke Note Collection Station – Osmosis brings with it a sense of feeling both full and bereft. Where the former is a short, sharp explosion to the senses, the latter delivers a knowing, yet mysterious intelligence, of which there is too much and yet not enough. Ultimately, it makes for a somewhat spiritual experience – a conservative meditation on the very action that keeps us alive.
Breath Control: Osmosis played at The Coronet Theatre until 1 June. For more information and tickets, visit The Coronet Theatre website.