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On Behalf of Nature

Royal Lyceum Theatre
four stars
The natural world in all its glory is celebrated in Meredith Monk's remarkable seventy-five minute dramatic meditation performed by her and her nine-strong Vocal Ensemble for Monks return to Edinburgh International Festival. With a live marimba-led score which moves from rhythmic codas to frantic little bursts of out-of-wackness, Monk and co flap around the stage in set-pieces of unadorned Zen choreography, chirruping in call and response harmony as they go.

With the performers dressed in what looks like pioneer-type outfits, at times their gambolling looks like a hoe-down in Eden. At other, more intimate moments., their propless mimesis flutters into being with a stark beauty. There are solos, duos and ensemble-based miniatures, each one an impressionistic thumbnail sketch of birds, trees, bees and other wildlife rendered in physical terms occasionally upended by outside forces.

There are clear parallels here, both thematically and stylistically, with Philip Glass' score for Koyaanisquatsi, Godfrey Reggio's big screen meditation on the relationship between the natural world and the big bad city. In Monk's hands, however, such concerns are rendered through a combinatioin of dance, music and a kind of physical calm that soothes and heals a wounded planet even as it reasserts its place within it.

A filmed back-drop shows all of Mother Nature's wonders, from flowers and animals to the sheer joy of a couple kissing in the most natural, non-virtual act on the planet. The bells that peal at the close of play aren't a memoriam. Rather, they are sounding out the quietest call to arms for every man, woman and child to get back to nature and start living right again.

The Herald, August 20th 2013


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