Latin for ‘unknown land’, Terra Incognita is an emotional and emotive piece of physical theatre which explores the relationship between humanity and nature. Drawing upon our unbreakable connection to the Earth and our simultaneous obliviousness to its fast-deteriorating condition, the show draws a heavy line under the urgency and importance of climate change by using an allegorical story communicated through dance.
The performance begins with a voiceover of Donald Trump arguing that climate change is a natural process, not a manmade one, and as such, nothing to worry about. Throughout the hour, various snippets from politicians will resound inside the cavernous interior of the ZOO Southside venue, while snatches of dialogue between the characters onstage are more often than not rendered unintelligible by the volume of the soundtrack and their frantic delivery.
Instead, the performers let their bodies do the talking. The protagonist appears to be an idealistic young politician, suited and ready for his first day of what he hopes to be an illustrious career. Before long, he becomes enthralled with a cloaked, graceful female dancer, apparently representative of Mother Earth, who takes him on a global journey through the plight of the planet. All the while, the remaining ensemble (dressed in raggedy apparel) attempt to drag him away from her charms and tempt him into debauchery and depravity.
The movement of the whole cast is superbly choreographed, with the body of performers moving in perfect unison like a flock of starlings. One minute they portray a glacial cave, the next a lonesome raft adrift upon the seas, while the most impressive set-piece comes when a giant bird materialises on stage and chases the young protagonists with breath-taking poise.
Aside from the excellent choreography, the production makes perhaps the best use of lighting and shadow at the whole of this year’s Fringe. Much of the performance takes place in gloom, imparting a sense of unease and uncertainty to proceedings, while the strobe lights, handheld torches and smoke machine all help to cement the atmosphere of foreboding. At times, the disjointed nature of the scenes to which we are treated becomes slightly overwhelming, but at its finale, the show rescues things beyond all doubt with an uncompromising and visceral climax.
A touching and eloquent piece of physical theatre.