A girl lies on the floor, awakens, and moves back and forth slowly until she stands up and dances around the space. She halts at one of the large mirrors at the back, which, in Lee Newby’s delicate design, becomes a window through which she meets her older self. From then on, history is present and memories become alive again in an eclectic mix of music, heartfelt poetry and vigorous choreography.
In this new piece by Hubert Essakow – which takes fire as its theme – sensual choreography is quickly followed by fierce and fearsome dance, creating an overall satisfying production that leads the audience into the past of an older woman (Sara Kestelman). Her memories of new love and the pain of loss surround her and become physical beings with whom she can play and dance, and who eventually approach and touch her. In a dramatic high point, the three dancers (originally hailing from Finland, Spain and Poland) repeat Kestelman’s words in their respective languages, like foreign echoes.
The intimacy of the piece pours forth not only from the space itself, where the audience is allowed to eye the impressive technique from very close by, but mainly from the way Kestelman combines strength with frailty. She is at all times the focus of the show, no matter what her youthful counterparts are up to. Indeed, the phrases that she now and then deliver – reflections on loves lost and lives lived – are hers: the production grew out of devising sessions, drawing on her writing skills as much as her acting.
The music by Jon Opstad is a cocktail of classical and contemporary, giving the piece gravity while remaining in the background. Noteworthy, however, is his use of the sound of the violin in the more heightened scenes. Much the same can be said for the lighting design (Matthew Eagland), which subtly steers the mood but does not go unnoticed. Both aspects seem in tune with the theme of fire: sometimes cosy and sometimes threatening.
Before the much-anticipated fire is lit, Kestelman appears at the final stage of her interior journey and curls up on the floor. A dancer appears and gently strikes a match. With the space illuminated by a stretch of fire, the final scene is mesmerising. The rhythms and the dancers’ reactions to each other – now synchronised, then clashing – make for a spectacle that is touching and muscular at the same time.
With the fire burning, the space becomes quite hot rather swiftly, which may be part of the reason why the element is introduced so late into the performance. However, that would be passing by the fact that its very presence reminds us of its physical power, both to warm up and to burn – much like relationships. There is little left to say other than that Ignis is very much worth seeing.
Ignis is playing at The Print Room until 1 March. For more information and tickets, see The Print Room website.