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Published on Wednesday, 25 May 2011

4 stars

West Hill Community Hall (venue website)
Dance and Physical Theatre
14-15, 20-22, 27-29 May, 8:00pm-9:30pm
Reviewed by Mathilda Gregory

 Family-friendly. Suitable for all ages.
 World Premiere.

Anima finds the Karavan Ensemble in a more contemplative mood than last year's Ship of Fools. In a new venue and with a smaller cast, this show is less bombastic and more simplistic. The title, anima, is psychoanalyst Jung's coinage for the unconscious feminine energy within men (the male equivalent within women is animus). However, the focus of the show appeared to be more about femininity and female energy within women - and anyway, this theme was secondary to the show's other motive: the attention-grabbing use of light and shade.

In the opening moments the audience are guided along a pathway, their way blocked by a tangle of red wool which they must negotiate as best they can, as other audience members line their route holding the candles.  Then we are all whisked into West Hill Hall, a community centre which functions as polling station and toddler group among other uses, but has now been transformed.

We find our way to our seats in near darkness. We hear strange voices in various languages and heavy accents. And then the lights begin. The stage is covered with these found objects. Desk lamps and standard lamps litter the floor, and make strange shadows: dazzle, obscure and reveal. The use of light transforms this shabby space into something magical.

An initial scene reveal fours women taking tea behind gauze. They are brightly coloured and backlit. Each performance is very distinct, but they work together to create a single stunning opening statement.

Then we move into solos and duets. More of the theme of femininity and women's lives appears here, with some ingenious use of the lamps as props and the lighting as backdrop. But quite often these pieces felt rushed. Several bold statements and visuals ended too early; compared to the confident opening, they felt underdeveloped, often playing around the edges of what (it seemed) they really wanted to do. It is strange to describe this show as lacking boldness, when last year's offering was so daring and inventive, but I found myself willing them to take some of the ideas further.

The show ends by almost fading out. Some audience members are invited to take lights and explore the performers, excavating them from the darkness with our torches like future archaeologists. Meanwhile, the rest of the audience are ushered away through the back door.

The whole piece is visually stunning and shot through with a dazzling melancholy, but at times its lightness and delicacy proved frustrating.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Brighton 2011.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.