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Psychostasia

Daemonia Nymphe
Theatre Lab Company
Old Cholmeleys Boy’s Club

Psychostasia Credit: Yiannis Katsaris
Psychostasia Credit: Yiannis Katsaris
Psychostasia Credit: Yiannis Katsaris
Psychostasia Credit: Yiannis Katsaris

Daemonia Nymphe is a British-based music ensemble created by Spyros Giasafakis and Evi Stergiou. It has been going since 1994 and plays on specially-made instruments that seek to replicate those of ancient Greece and their music is modelled after what is known of ancient music.

This work, created by director Anastasia Revi as a site specific performance in the intriguing ambience of this former boys' club, is an atmospheric experience of visual theatre and dance, speech, song and music played on ancient instruments supplemented by others, including a double bass.

In a room that is also used as an artist’s studio and looks as though it could be an antique dealer's store with vintage clothes and stuffed animals as well as interesting furniture, comfortable sofas line a rectangular performance space with a log fire burning in an elegant fireplace at one end. A balcony runs around at an upper level which is also used by the performers.

The performance begins with the entry of the wind gods, the heavily breathing Zephyrus, the West Wind, trailing a tunnel of gauze that reaches back to Boreas, the North Wind. Beneath it, women enter in a stately dance that becomes increasingly vigorous as the winds intensify until there is a twisting maelstrom of movement pulling first one way then the other.

A goddess figure above scatters red petals—or are they feathers?—that float down over the dancers, at the other end of the room; another female lifts a lyre from its resting place, like Apollo bringing music to the world. A voice takes us through times from man’s first Golden Age, through Silver, Bronze and then Iron—our age with its worries and sorrows.

The spoken text, sometimes in Greek, sometimes in English, gives some guide as to what is being presented but this is a visual and aural world that acts directly on the feelings rather than offering a narrative or a programme for the intellect.

A drummer and a white masked bass player appear. The two male dancers, no longer winds, drape black veils over a woman. Are they Hypnos and Thanatos—Sleep and Death? Was that Morpheus bringing dreams? Now Orpheus is charming the world with his music but his wife is called to Hades and he must follow and plead for her return. Granted his wish he disobeys instructions, looks back and loses her forever.

There is a water sequence now, a sort of purification perhaps, an entry introducing two children, a boy and girl, whose repetitions reflect the legend of Echo. These episodes are not so much reenactments as emotive recollections and they build through ritual to almost orgiastic excitements with swirling fire and pounding feet. I suspect Psyche is there somewhere awakening Eros, perhaps Selene dreaming with the sleeping Endymion.

Anastasia Revi is a director who shown in earlier work how well she can explore ideas of ritual but here she expands into a broader choreography that is closely matched to the musical form and expresses compulsive feeling, a catharsis by symbiotic experience rather than conscious thought.

Her expressive company generates great energy, led musically by Evi Stergiou and Spyros Giasafakis. Matthew Wade, with a strong presence, rich, clear voice and graceful movement stands out among them, but it is the way all of their individual contributions contrast or blend together as an ensemble that makes this work so continually engaging.

Reviewer: Howard Loxton