Listen to the Forest

Mar 3 2024 | By More

Work in Progress: Enjoyably thought-provoking.

Assembly Roxy: Fri 1 – Sat 2 Mar 2024
Review by Allan Wilson

Valeria Levi’s Listen to the Forest is an experimental dance performance combining movement, spoken word, music and innovative use of sign language. It is currently in the second stage of its development process, with hopes for a final stage later in the year, but is already an enjoyably thought-provoking production.

Listen to the Forest encourages us to look at nature and the environment with a new perspective, from the collective point of view of the world’s forests. Levi emphasises the connection with breathing for both trees and humans. She introduces a number of related themes, including the need to find space for listening and to find a point of balance between humanity and nature.

The cast during the post-show Q&A. Evie Waddell, Pirita Puisku (Choreographic Mentor and Outside Eye), Eloise Kretschmer, Valeria Levi, Sonya Smullen and Megan McArthur (BSL interpreter). Pic Allan Wilson.

The themes are primarily presented through physical movement, ranging from sinuous rolling around the floor, balletic grace and climbing on and about five large, wooden blocks at the back of the set. From time to time, Levi uses spoken word to explore the issues behind the performance with simple statements like, “Life needs to be preserved”, “You’re not listening to me anymore” and “I don’t think the forest can speak to me”.

While Levi is clearly the creative lead, this is a very collaborative piece, and she is very generous with the opportunities she gives to her fellow-performers to shine.

BSL Performer, Evie Waddell, takes the lead as the performance begins with sinuous movements around the floor, moving a small representation of a forest, comprising a sapling, stones, moss and cones. Her movement becomes more energetic as she stands and helps musician and sound designer, Eloise Kretschmer, create a soundscape by holding a microphone in front of her mouth as she catches her breath.

vital role

Waddell’s proficiency in BSL is clear as she signs for Levi’s spoken statements, while continuing to perform and react to the words as an actor. The roles are memorably reversed towards the end when Waddell sings in Gaelic and Levi signs in Italian. This is very impressive, though I wonder how much of the Italian signing a BSL user would have understood.

Kretschmer also plays a vital role. The use of music sets the tone and atmosphere for the production. As a child she played cello and double base, but her versatility and skills now include acoustic bass guitar, electric guitar, piano and percussion. She has become an expert in playing and recording samples from different instruments and looping them together to create appropriate soundscapes to suit the mood of a scene.

Sonya Smullen has done good work as set and costume designer. The simple beige tunics allow the performers freedom of movement and there was a lovely moment when what appears to be Levi’s blue bodice unravels (deliberately!) and she becomes briefly entangled with Waddell as they dance together.

very special

The set is adequate for a work in progress performance, but five bare wooden boxes and a couple of moveable boxes with a sapling, some moss and pine cones don’t really make a forest. I’m sure this will be addressed in the next stage of development – even giving the boxes green covers to represent moss would help.

Lighting was the basic set-up provided by the venue and was adequate, but a good lighting designer could have done more to enhance the impression of a forest through the use of light and shade, and the use of back projection.

There is already a lot to enjoy in this production. Levi has created an engaging work with a very relevant environmental theme, using innovative techniques, particularly the use of music and integration of signing.

If funding can be secured for further development, it could become very special. Waddell and Kretschmer both demonstrate very high levels of skill in areas where there is likely to be high demand.

Running time: 45 minutes (no inerterval).
Assembly Roxy, 2 Roxburgh Place, EH8 9SU
Friday 1 – Saturday 2 March 2024.
Evenings: 7.30pm; Sat Mat: 2.30pm.
Run ended.


Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Comments are closed.