On Behalf Of Nature
4 stars ****
Royal Lyceum Theatre
IT APPEARS in the theatre section of the festival programme; but in truth, what the great composer and performer Meredith Monk offers, in the European premier of her latest work, is something more like a 21st century oratorio, in which the singers also dance. There is a bare stage, apart from the area where three musicians gather with their instruments. And in this space, ravishingly lit by Elaine Buckholtz , the Vocal Ensemble – five extraordinary singer/dancers, led by Monk herself – move through 75 minutes of exquisite musical variations, waves, ripples and rythmic surges of sound and movement that begin by seeming to imitate the sounds of birdsong or bees, and end with what seems like a reassertion of the human, of humankind’s journeys and dances and prayers.
For as the title suggests, Monk’s purpose is to use the human voice and body to rebuild our broken relationship with nature, and to demonstrate the closeness of the musical, physical and vocal link between our breathing bodies and the natural world. Despite some extraordinary “repurposed” costumes by Yoshio Yabara, the visual aspects of the production sometimes seem less intense and original than Monk’s magnificent music. In the end, though, there’s an integrity, a beauty and towering musical talent in Monk’s work that demands respect and love; and if we began the week, with Grid Iron, considering what it might mean to leave planet earth, we end it with Monk’s eloquent plea that we understand how deeply we are bound to the life of our home planet, before it is too late.
EIF p. 27.