Appel D'Air @ The Traverse
Up Up and Away
Being lazy and wanting to impress with my erudition, I'll kick off with a quotation that may or may not have inspired Theatre Velo. Oscar Wilde claimed that "We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." Appel D'Air imagines the state of suspension between the gutter and the stars, pitching a single performer onto a bed, precariously balanced in the air. Eventually the performer launches himself into either the void or the divine, escaping towards the stars after playing with a variety of symbolic toys – planes, boats, rockets and fire. Perhaps Wilde saw the poetry in stargazing: Appel D'Air sees the existential anxiety.
Unlike good, old fashioned, scripted drama, visual theatre is determinedly fluid and allusive. A window beyond the bed displayed a distant city-scape, then twisted into a cabin porthole. Small aeroplanes and boats swung from the ceiling. The bed itself became a canvas, a stage, a retreat from the sense of weightlessness that both frightened and encouraged the actor's attempts to communicate with the beyond. Inevitably surreal – dealing in associative images conjures dream-like narratives – the dynamism of the performance emerged from nuanced movements and languid routines and the meaning of each item reflected a broader preoccupation with travel and journeys.
The deliberative pacing lends Appel D'Air the atmosphere of a meditation: even the final leap into the unknown is gentle. Both as a series of stunning, evocative images and a subtle reflection on the ambiguity of ambition –the performer longs to jump but clearly fears the unknown – Appel D'Air is a strong expression of visual theatre's immediate eloquence.