Review: WithinRange by Isobel Cohen

Within Range is supposedly ‘political theatre meets explosive physicality’, based on the events of 1989 and the fall of the Berlin wall.  I was initially concerned that I would not be able to offer an incicive review on the piece, as this is a period of history which I haven’t studied in any great detail.  Fortunately for my analysis, it seems neither have they.

The piece begins with a slideshow cylcing through images of various famous historical dictators, from Julius Caesar to Stalin, accompanied by “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”.  A funny idea, and indeed the couple sat behind me find it hysterical for the full three or four minutes.  When this is over, the audience space is briefly used well, with some translation to and fro in passable German, and a gag with a faux-cyrillic vending machine to create a dictator works nicely.

Inexplicably we are then treated to an extended sequence of secret agent stereotype waddling in macs, along with some obnoxious music.  While this is obviously closely choreographed, working with repetition and patterns of gestures between the characters and their actions and crossings, it seems devoid of any purpose beyond the choreography.  I would say the same of some of the other choreographed sequences - that they are strong as pieces of dance for its own sake, though some performers and sections are noticably less polished than others, and the music is consistently irritating.

The one or two moments of humour are dragged out and killed almost immediately after their appearance (the couple behind me laugh dutifully all the way through - perhaps friends of the cast?).  The multimedia projection is patronising and superfluous throughout, as well as being inexplicably small, such that I can only just read it in the front row.  The set is mobile, which is occasionally put to good use, but at other times seems to be moved only to justify its mobility.  The occasional decorations of faux-cyrillic text (by which I mean English with some letters reversed) which appear randomly in German contexts are a slightly baffling oddity.  While the advertised ‘political’ aspect of the performance gives the impression of having been devised by a confused teenager, the elements of physical theatre have the potential to be powerful if given the right context. Perhaps the piece would benefit from having a director as well as a choreographer.

Within Range, 6-20 August @ 6.10pm (70mins) ZOO Southside 117 Nicholson Street.


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