Image courtesy of Emma Brierley.
The Traverse Theatre
Tuesday 2 February at the Traverse Theatre saw the world premiere of LoopsEnd, a three-dimensional dance performance and mimed drama between four actors. As a collaboration between director Tim Burton and singer-songwriter Trent Reznor, the show combined starkly simple lighting and set design with mesmerising acrobatics in a visually pleasing, yet somewhat emotionally flat, performance.
The first act followed three actors, two women and a man, dressed in sand-coloured, body-tight costumes as they interacted with two hanging ropes weighed down by burlap bags. Beginning only by playing with them, they soon progressed to climbing, jumping, and wrapping themselves in the ropes, creating remarkable stunts with their athletic skill. These circus-like manoeuvres were part of a larger storyline, evidenced only by the changes in tone, music, expressions, and gestures of the actors.
Certain interactions were confusing, as the audience was left wondering at what the raised eyebrows and violent gestures could possibly be conveying, while others were powerful and actually quite stunning: one woman curled up on the side of the stage, coughing up the white chalk from the burlap bags she had eaten and spread ecstatically on her body earlier, as the man, unaware, climbed on the ropes. The effect of the images was often breathtaking, even if the story the audience was meant to be following seemed added on, almost as if an afterthought. The act ended with the ropes and burlap bags split open, drawing a pair of lungs in white chalk across the floor of the stage.
The second act began with one of the women from the first act in a home setting, looking through slides on a projector she constructed from a white sheet against an all-white background. Instead of the two ropes, in their place were two white sheets hanging from ceiling to floor. As the woman watched the slides, a new character emerged from the white void, whose purplish-red hair and costume were the only colour on stage and indeed, some of the only colour in the show.
The two women chased each other up and down the sheets and battled through billowing seas of white blown across the stage floor. Again, the visuals were striking, though the continuity between the first and second acts, if there was any at all, was again difficult to follow.
LoopsEnd combines beautiful dance-like acrobatics with visually striking sets and symbolism. Though it is uncertain whether a story was effectively communicated, it was worth the experience simply owing to the performance’s use of stunning effects.