Emergence is a new show created and performed by The Pachamamas; their first at Edinburgh Fringe. The director is one of my former tutors at Rose Bruford, Lorraine Sutherland. This makes it quite difficult to write about while avoiding bias, as well a trying not to worry about what impression it might make were she to read it. However, I’ve decided to try and review the shows I see, so here goes regardless. These are my own personal views - they don’t represent the views of any theatre company I may direct or perform for. I am not a professional or even a very good reviewer, but it seems any idiot with a computer can do it these days, so here goes.
The performance opens with the narrator figure’s charmingly awkward attempts to get the audience on side. However, the delivery is a little too performed, with no space given for any genuine audience response to gain more than sympathy for the performer. She recovers well after about the ten minute mark with some beautifully delivered little stories and comments, but could have made a much stronger first impression by taking her time.
On reading about the show afterwards I find that it boasts ‘a capella singing’ (along with physical theatre, story telling and cabaret). This presumably describes the two or three moments in which the narrator sings without the backing track. Misguided marketing rather than a fault with the production, but perhaps there is something in the frail and genuine a capella singing that fits a Kantorian construction of memory much better than a recording of ABBA or Ievan Polkka.
The cluttered set, while it may be replete with symbolic references/memories, seems only to restrict the potential for the space to exist in more than one reality - something the performers clearly have the potential to portray physically without the need for so many props - an unused telephone gets only a brief reference in the dialogue, for example.
The relationship between the mother and daughter of the piece was set up well, and stayed true to the company’s intention to avoid presenting a ‘perfected narrative’, prefering a presentation after the disjointed nature of memory. While each section evoked something that seemed genuine and well-observed or remembered, some were more theatrically successful than others (the young girl playing nurse with her right hand taking the role of “asistente” is brilliantly exectued, but less so when repeated for the roles mother/hypothetical son), and the lack of conventional pacing to this (re)telling is what other reviewers seem to have picked on as the main flaw in the piece. While it is clearly not the company’s aim to create a dramatically paced narrative, I do think that the narrator figure could have been used more successfully to shape the performance into something with a theatrical arc, or even give more of a cabaret structure. I would have enjoyed seeing much more of her mask work with the penguin head.
Emergence remains a touching and intelligent presentation of a relationship between mother and daughter, containing some moments of brilliance. It defies any expectations of narrative theatre in exploring such a theme, and while it may not always work, it is certainly worth it when it does.
Emergence is on at Underbelly’s Belly Button, 56 Cowgate Edinburgh EH1 1EG. 4th-28th August at 11.20am.