On Behalf of Nature

Meredith Monk

Royal Lyceum Theatre

From 16 August 2013 to 18 August 2013

Rating: *

Review by Philip Fisher

If there was any doubt at all after the first four productions in the 2013 theatre programme, On Behalf of Nature confirms that plays directed as written are no longer in favour with the powers that be at EIF.

Even in such a context, it seems disingenuous to categorise On Behalf of Nature, which contains not a word of text, as theatre. Had it taken place next door in the Usher Hall, it would have passed muster as a concert, while both opera and dance are at least as justifiable.

The closest parallel that this critic can draw is with the work of Philip Glass. The music is minimalist, delivered by a trio of versatile players who also join the five singer / dancers on the unadorned dance space, as the need arises.

This group, which includes the composer / choreographer, has clearly been meticulously drilled but the purpose of their movement is rarely obvious. The vocalisations do not help either, as they are meaningless chants that never build into words.

When the performers are required to change from coloured clothes to white, there is a short burst of film that fans of Glass’s Koyaanisqatsi will regard as famiiar.

The costumes themselves are worthy of comment, symbolically created by taking original clothes, chopping them up and putting them back together again as a gesture towards ecological recycling, though why using the originals unharmed would have been worse for the planet is unclear.

This is definitely a 75-minute performance for those already converted to the charms of Meredith Monk, who might love this kind of music and can make something of the performance style.