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Translunar Paradise
Published on Friday, 19 August 2011

5 stars

Pleasance Dome (venue website)
3-15, 17-22, 24-29 Aug, 3:40pm-4:55pm
Reviewed by Carmel Doohan

 Parental Guidance. Parents or guardians should consider the content of this show if children are attending.

The story - after his wife's death, an old man struggles to move on - is simple and sad, but the performances are complex and full of life-affirming joy. This exploration of a relationship contains no dialogue, with the whistling accordionist and her beautifully mournful ballad providing the only sound.

The memories of the couple's relationship, through war, joy and suffering, are danced and mimed - an incredible amount of detail and personality being conveyed by just their movements. Young and old versions are played by the same actors, with the older couple wearing dour, flesh-like masks. Rather than distancing the audience, the masks create a space for pure identification. Behind them, this man and woman could be any of us.

Despite their faces being hidden, they manage to convey a lifetime's love and sadness through the tiniest of gestures; in a tap on the arm or a shake of the head, everything is said. Rituals are enacted - making tea, decorating the house, having supper - and ordinary domestic details are shown to be the bricks that build our worlds. Structures are mimed before us, with invisible cupboards, beds and teapots appearing to re-create the world of their love. A wonderfully choreographed war sequence is especially powerful, with the wife helping her husband recover from the traumatic events with slow, sad patience.

As appearances slip and change, memory and fact merge. When the masks come off there is a whistle of air, as if souls are being sucked Matrix-like from their bodies. This sense of reality becoming detached from its surroundings is performed in a in a spectacular flow of dance, when the husband reaches for his dead wife and her body slips away, leaving just a face floating in mid air.

The climax is an incredibly moving kind of Jitterbug. As they swing each other in and out, arguments morph into embraces. Gestures of pain spin into the making of tea, and their whole life become part of this all encompassing dance; everything, even death, is seen, felt and somehow put to rest, while melting into one glorious whirl. 

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