4 stars ****
Summerhall (Venue 26)
It’s a busy place, the Edinburgh Fringe; sometimes almost frenzied. Just occasionally, though, a show appears that has a poise, an authority, an inner strength so profound that it takes a rushing, hyperactive Fringe audience, and moves them into a completely different place, slowing their heartbeats, making them pause, changing the way they breathe and see; and Nick Steur’s remarkable piece of performance art, presented at Summerhall as part of the Big In Belgium season, is one of those rare and beautiful shows.
In a gently-lit studio, on a bare floor, Steur invites his audience to contemplate a row of six mirrored cubes on which sit small stones and rocks, all glittering in the soft light, in a huge range of shapes and colours. He switches on his own recorded voice, on a small tape-machine strapped to the top of his head, which talks us through the experience, although it often falls completely silent at just the right moment. And then, gently, and with absolute focus, Steur begins to balance the stones and rocks on top of one another, in a series of what look like small scuptures or installations; the drama, though, in in the process, which involves Steur holding, poising, almost listening to the rock, until he finds points of balance that initially seem absolutely impossible, between pieces of stone that are often breathtakingly uneven or asymmetrical in shape.
There is a kind of metaphor here, maybe, about hidden possibilities for connection, balance, beauty, which we can begin to detect if we slow down, and truly begin to feel and hear what we usually take for granted. Mainly, though, what’s striking about this show is it’s intense, absorbing theatricality, which has audiences literally gasping with disappointment or relief as Steur finds, or fails to find, his point of balance. It reminds us of the essential narrative simplicity of dramatic experience, and how it is about action, even more than about words. And it is also absolutely and compellingly beautiful, in its perfect focus on the radiant energy of the stuff that makes up our world, expressed in Steur’s intent and beautiful face, as he places his stone, pauses, listens, and places it again.