Dimanche (EIF)

Aug 17 2023 | By More

★★★★☆     Hugely inventive

Church Hill Theatre (EIF): Tue 15 – Sat 19 Aug 2023
Review by Hugh Simpson

Dimanche at the Church Hill is a magically inventive display. The International Festival production is a collaboration between two Belgian companies – Focus, who use puppets and miniature objects and Chaliwaté, a physical theatre troupe. Both of these approaches are in evidence in a constantly engaging spectacle.

We are shown the effects of the climate catastrophe on the domestic life of a family, on some endangered animals (represented by beautifully manipulated puppets) and on a film crew whose attempts to chronicle the collapsing ecosystem are gradually swallowed up by the environment itself.

A scene from Dimanche at the EIF. Pic: Andrew Perry

Almost entirely wordless (apart from a few brief bursts of an unspecified and untranslated Slavic language), this is realised entirely through the visual impact of physical theatre, and some use of projections.

There is considerable emotional force – both melancholy and humorous – in these visuals. There is a touching portrait of a polar bear mother and child. The film crew’s van (both in toy form and realised on stage with great cleverness) bumps along to the incongruous strains of Paul Simon.

In a family home, there is a heat so strong wooden furniture begins to melt, and a meal is interrupted by hurricane-force winds. The title translates as Sunday – traditionally the day of rest and family – but there is precious little rest for those depicted here. Things are well beyond the tipping point, and the more they try to put them back together, the more they fall apart.


There is even quite a neat metaphor for the way some people talk blithely about the ‘opportunities’ a changed climate may bring. After a flamingo, suffering from loss of its habitat, is killed, the humans take the chance to cook it for dinner. This does not end well.

A scene from Dimanche at the EIF. Pic: Andrew Perry

There is an exactness to the movement and comedy of writer-director-performers Julie Tenret, Sicaire Durieux and Sandrine Heyraud that is extremely praiseworthy. The puppets (from Waw! Studios, Joachim Jannin and Jean-Raymond Brassinne) are wonderfully designed and skilfully operated. Once again, there is that familiar yet still striking realisation that a human puppet is somehow more real than the person operating it. There is an intensity to Guillaume Toussaint Fromentin’s lighting and Brice Cannavo’s sound design that threatens to overwhelm at times.

There can easily be questions about whether clowning is a suitable response to environmental collapse, but it may very well be the only appropriate one. Similarly, a recommendation that this is suitable for ages 9 and up may give some a pause to think – once again, however, it seems entirely suited to such an age group.

There may not be much hope offered in a scenario that ends on a downer-than-downbeat note, but the constant invention on display provides a glimmer of light.

Running time 1 hour 15 minutes (no interval)
Church Hill Theatre, Morningside Road, EH10 4DR (Part of the Edinburgh International Festival)
Tuesday 15 – Saturday 19 August 2023
Daily at 7.00 pm
Tickets and details Book here.

A scene from Dimanche at the EIF. Pic: Andrew Perry


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