Hands up if you’ve become an absolute pro and self-confessed advocate of Zoom calls. Well, now you can take your Zoom obsession even further and watch live-streamed performances from the comfort of your living room to get your theatre fix! It really does have to be marvelled at.
As part of Gateshead International Festival (GIFT), streamed from her flat in Glasgow, Gudrun Soley Sigurdardottir presents her ever-changing show Elision via a Zoom webinar, and it couldn’t be timelier. This festival features a 3-day showcase of contemporary, developmental and experimental practices from all over the world. Determined to deliver, GIFT have managed to adapt performances, working alongside technology, to reach online audiences in new and exciting ways.
Elision is a reflective and profound exploration of connectivity with others and the nature of warmth. As an Icelandic artist and performer, Sigurdardottir has no trouble feeling cold or isolated, but questions why we crave heat and what it means to be warm.
The webinar of Elision begins and we see Sigurdardottir surrounded by an inflatable palm tree, cactus and lilo – tropical, comical and malleable. She begins with a brief but beautiful announcement acknowledging that this was not the intended delivery of the show. She asks us to imagine being in the theatre, entering the room, sitting down and generating the warmth of the audience – something that we didn’t even realise we took for granted. Instantly we know we are in for a reflective journey.
For the most part, Elision is wacky and messy but we get to know our performer as she prances around her blow up set. Although initially bizarre, the show transcends into a special and inter-connective space when members of the audience are invited to take part in an experiment together and everyone is seen for the first time via video. We have the option to hold a piece of ice and to watch it change and melt, noticing what we see and feel. Simple, yet moving, it’s a thrilling metaphor for letting go when things hurt and noting that you can’t hold onto things forever – change is constant.
These emotional moments of interaction are the real stand-out strengths of the piece but in comparison the textual interludes feel a little insubstantial. The unnecessary anecdotes, although interesting to think about, detract from the exciting experience that is happening live. With a re-enactment of a classic Titanic scene (on an imaginary shared lilo) featuring one brave audience member, she recovers with comedy, rawness and heart.Contemplative and amusing, Elision offers a quirky perspective alongside a fun interactive journey. The piece ends with the deflation of set, highlighting the fragility of the world and examines the nature of leaving. Nobody knows what will happen next as each individual leaves the Zoom meeting, but one thing is certain: we are all a little bit changed.
Elision played at the Gateshead Interntional Festival on 2nd May 2020. For more information and tickets, see Gudrun Soley Sigurdardottir‘s website