The Manipulate Festival of visual theatre, puppetry and animation is back at the Traverse Theatre. While the festival takes place in several venues across the UK, the majority of the work is presented here in Edinburgh. Manipulate showcases international artists along with appreciating local work and it is a Scottish-based duo who open Scotland’s programme with Extremely Pedestrian Chorales.
The performance takes inspiration from the chorales of composer JS Bach to present a four-person dance and physical theatre piece that also features a seven-person choir. Extremely Pedestrian Chorales investigates how pedestrians move and how everyday actions can be presented on a stage. The show begins with a jittery atmosphere, jagged movements and awkward stumbles being expressed by the dancers. It’s a fascinating, comedic and attention grabbing beginning.
Each performer holds a script that they read during the show. At certain times the performers take centre stage to verbally deliver fragments of the script. This presentation feels very haphazard and repetitive, though the monotony is then broken up with the introduction of the choir. This in itself seems random and adds to the bizarre nature of the work. The music is pushed further when the performers use kazoos and harmonicas as additional musical accompaniment, but the peculiarity of the show starts to feel very predictable and expected.
Extremely Pedestrian Chorales is presented on the large stage in the Traverse Theatre with minimal set dressing. The house lights are up and the entire setup is very lacklustre. The stripped-back look is in keeping with the tone of the show, however the stage feels very underused, sparse and unprepared. It feels like this show could have occurred anywhere and was not taking advantage of the location that it is being performed in. Extremely Pedestrian Chorales feels too quirky to be a fully enjoyable piece. The experimentation comes over as uncomfortably forced, distracting us from the initial enthusiasm, comedy and stimulation that is presented in the first few minutes of the show.