Eerie music, a stage drained of colour and a broken cot mark the opening of Tal – an original dance performance. A creature is crouched on the bed, wrapped in the bedsheet, and she only starts moving when the music changes and the colours return to the imagery.
Tal is a dance theatre performance by Tal Levy Cohen. Exploring the darkest moments of her life, she takes us on a journey as she reimagines her parents’ divorce and her loss of self. As she creates beautiful shapes and figures with her body under the red and blue lights of the minimalist space, she recreates the world around her. What seems like two different worlds altogether in the beginning – happiness and depression – merge together throughout the forty-five-minute-long solo performance. Not only does her life change, with the movements becoming sharp and angsty, she also builds and rebuilds the few objects that deck the stage again and again. Her bed, a chair and a toilet which will later become the symbol of her discovery.
Tal suffers from bulimia, and she goes all the way back to her existence as a mere embryo to unravel where it all started. Moved, we accompany her as binge eating turns to self-loathing and body dysmorphia. Her monologue performed in Hebrew and subtitled in English explains her illness to us in colourful words – sometimes too colourful. What I wish was left to my own imagination is exposed in Tal’s lively moments of dance, and what I wished she would leave to our interpretation is said in black and white in her monologue.
Even though her dance choreography is enticing and fluent, there is not enough of it. Beautiful sequences are broken apart by moments of self-discovery when Tal sits in the middle of the space and dives deep into the ideas of body shaming and mental illness. It even disappears all together, when she underlines her discovery by rebuilding the ominous toilet seat into a set of swings covered in butterflies and flowers. She spends the last part of the show swinging back and forth while explaining her ambitions for the show, and I long for more.
Altogether, Tal is a thoughtful and important piece of art that openly talks about what it means to suffer and recover from an eating disorder. Cohen closes the space between her beautiful dance movements and the grave topic of her show. However, for that very reason I wish she embraced the expressiveness of her choreography to the fullest and filled the gaps that words alone can’t.
Tal played at online@theSpaceUk on 6 August 2021. For more information and tickets visit the Edinburgh Fringe website.