monumental @ Edinburgh Playhouse

Review by Stephanie Green & Mark Harding | 15 Aug 2016

monumental will blow you away.  A visceral, immersive experience where repetitive moves mesmerize, and the tsunami-like post-rock soundscape is so loud it reverberates in the chest.  This is more than a revival of Holy Body Tattoo’s production, choreographed by Noam Gagnon and Dana Gingras in 2006, but an inspired re-imagining with the on-stage band Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

This is a vision of dysfunctional urban lifestyle, with the nine dancers dressed as if for the office, perched on pedestals – but unlike statues of glorified heroes or heroines in our cities, these serve more as imprisoning islands. The dancers enact a disturbing and recognisable urban angst – or loneliness – through soulless repetitive moves; at times mechanical as if performed by robots; at others developing nervous tics; scratching, hair pulling under the strain of conformity. At times, an individual may fall off, to be ignored. 

A scrim displaying quirky text with cynical advice from Jenny Holzer adds an ironic layer, and William Morrison’s fast-moving visuals of whirling wind turbines, whizzing car lights and spaghetti-junctions at night add dramatically to the frenzy.

The audience is caught out by a false ending, but this proves a clever and humorous way to change the mood, leading to a coda of violence, bullying and an apocalyptic vision of suicides floating in the sewers. What a pity this tremendous piece indulges in yet another false ending – the joke inevitably falls flat second time round, jerking the audience out of the zone, so that the end seems too long.