I have never been to a show where a google form is integral to the performance; however, We Sing I Sang opens such gateways. As I sit in the Cockpit Theatre, three young performers attempt to construct a Lovecraftian entity using three elements: movement, voice and music.
The performance works slowly. You have to listen. As an active process it builds layers gradually. A projector screen flickers with audience suggestions as this creature, which has seemingly consumed the world, forms. An overarching aesthetic elevates any performance, but a careless single purple fan cuts through the black of the costume. This process raises no firm characters, no clear plot. It is unfortunate as there is so much potential buried here.
These three elements are not always as strong as one another. The movement, unfortunately, falls short. While the warrior-like motions carry their own tantalizing tableaus, circles marked in socks scraping the ground do not make for a most extravagant use of space or body. I feel in many ways the action is made redundant by its absence of embellishment. I find myself awaiting a total disintegration of structure or a following free flow of motion carried by the music. Instead, much of the visuals are wooden.
With a more complex understanding of language, a piece like this may truly thrive. Some of the lines carry captivating implications with hints of contemporary poetry. The performer sings, ‘I loved the hungry animal of my body,’ a line which strikes me as pervasive and fresh. One audience member provides a hilarious injection, “Conversation with Bees” as a suggestion as to a positive result of the world-destroying crisis. Anyone prepared to take a risk may have played into the comedy. Instead, we meet with safer options. All it takes is one risk; one crack to shatter expectation.
Moments of synchronisation are the result of pure coincidence. The problem lies in that performers working in unison require extensive discipline in listening, predicting and reading their partners. It is important to note that these three performers are markedly young, and such abilities grow with experience.
The stillness and simplicity leave much of We Sing, I Sang feeling remarkably safe. This performance is uncompromisingly experimental which cries for disorder. Unhinged chaos, overlapping noise and a total absence of coherence begging for patterns would have been far more fascinating. It is up to us to make creative decisions which strike and challenge. Playing safe never hits the mark.
The music too falls short. The voice feels more choir singer at times rather than a hard belt from the diaphragm. The violin either drowns out the voice or clicks, unnerving, discordant. The staccato is impressive but again it is the absence of listening which crushes moments of potential. If the violin were to be openly deconstructed, exploited for all its potential sounds, drummed upon and smacked, we may stray into the bounds of possibility. Instead, much of the music fails in its technicality and tumbles out of relevance.
The whole thing is intriguing. I find that this is far more an exercise in collaborative improvisation than a final clean product. I leave, still not knowing what this frightening ‘mind’ may be. This is indeed the purpose of cosmological horror and therefore there are successes to this work.
We Sing/I Sang showed at The Cockpit 15 September. For more information, visit the The Cockpit theatre’s website.