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Two unique performances by the aerial theatre company Ockham’s Razor, ‘Not Until We Are Lost’, were shown as part of Live at LICA’s initiative to connect cultural events on campus and the city.
The first performance of physical theatre was situated in the LICA building on campus, and the walk to the venue was mesmerising. The imposing square building was lit by dim lights dotted around the pond, creating a fortress-like feel; a perfect preface to the performance taking place at Lancaster Castle two days later.
Like the full show, which takes a free-flowing structure where the audience moves between different performance spaces, this short preview allowed viewers to place themselves around the scaffolding which hosted the three performers. No seat was required, just an upward gaze as ‘Not Until We Are Lost’ unfolded above. The audience definitely remained on their toes as the performers jumped and swung across the steel frame.
In many ways, the piece could be described as minimalist; the set was simple (featuring only a frame of steel rods) and the performance featured no lines or spoken words. Despite this almost clinical approach, Ockham’s Razor managed to perfectly convey themes of friendship, love and support with great warmth and emotion. The small cast of three swung, shuffled, climbed and fell about their frame, illustrating how movement alone can portray emotions that are understood by all.
One criticism would be the short length of the show, which was repeated several times during the evening. After only 15 minutes, I was left wanting more. Thankfully, more was offered later in the week at Lancaster Castle – although this second performance was also just a short 15 minute taste of what Ockham’s Razor have to offer.
Against the fantastic backdrop of the castle, this second piece involved a different set of actors, although was also part of ‘Not Until We Are Lost’. The audience were left to place themselves around a ceiling-height class cylinder and many seemed unsure of what to expect. This structure provided the only light in the courtyard, with a lone performer stood inside. A man trapped? Lost? Through this simple imagery, the imaginations of the audience were immediately captured – the buzz of curiosity and excitement was clear.
Once again, we watched the man perform, by climbing and sliding, within this confined space. I was in awe of the skill and bravery shown; at one point he slid head first down into the tube, leaving the audience gasping. Although the staging was brilliant, the audience’s reactions were equally as captivating.
From the crowd, a woman emerged. Despite being outside of the confines of the man’s cage, they worked in harmony, performing both separately and together. No words were exchanged; again, the movements and silent interactions were enough to convey the emotions and messages clearly. In the climax, the woman helped the man out of his glass cage so they can climb down to the ground together. No longer lost perhaps? This is too early for me though; before I know it they were walking away through the crowd – forever lost to us.
People within the audience started softly singing, another moving touch by the company whose use of local volunteers integrates the community within the work produced outside of Lancaster. A touching ending to their last performance of ‘Not Until We Are Lost’.
Afterwards, I was able to talk to Jensen Tudtud, a Lancaster University student and member of the choir involved. He had this to say: “I performed for the company in 2012, the last time they were in Lancaster, and we were the second choir they’ve had back then. The newly formed choir this year was the fourteenth! Everyone involved couldn’t quite believe how fast time has flown by. Only three of us could rejoin the new choir as most of the former singers graduated in July.
“It’s been really wonderful hearing the songs (re)interpreted and we’ve been super lucky to have our choirmaster Anna Flannagan work with our voices. The aerial artists never cease to amaze me, by both their astonishing physical prowess and their modesty as creative collaborators. They headlined the Mime Festival in London two years ago and performed at the Sydney Festival in January before they returned for Light Up Lancaster – still after all that, they were so delighted to come back and do this show for us. The Lancaster choir feel very privileged in taking part – it’s been a truly unforgettable experience.”