Civilisation (4 stars)

This article is from 2019


credit: Alex Brenner

A profound piece of visual poetry

Civilisation is an analysis of the kind of grief that can't be articulated, a raw agony that can't be processed. A young woman (Sophie Steer) is in the grips of this anguish and, as time speeds up and slows around her, it shows her filling a person-sized hole in her life; the silence jarringly filled with ABBA and her empty flat with dancers. Blending the superficial with the sincere and painfully recognizable realism with abstract dance, Antler have produced a profound piece of visual poetry.

Director Jaz Woodcock-Stewart, has an impressive eye for detail and she brings out a quietly shattering performance from Steer. Getting dressed, cooking an egg, changing her bedsheets - all of them acquire a Sisyphean quality in the wake of tragedy, the bare necessities to continue this half-life she's living. Morgann Runacre-Temple's choreography is, perhaps fittingly, harder to decipher. At times it's obtrusive and distracting, at others it conveys Steer's inner life with care. The blaring 80s music and the dancers jolt to life, abruptly halt, sputter out, and spark back to life like the unpredictable emotional tempo that accompanies mourning.

Civilisation is many things at once: theatre, dance, performance art, illuminating and baffling, hilarious and heart-breaking. It's a cohesive contradiction that excavates a deep-seated, elusively indescribable feeling hidden away in the audience. Regardless, the result is an uncut diamond in the rough.

Underbelly Cowgate, until 25 Aug, 6.25pm, £11 (£10).


  • 4 stars

Jaz Woodcock-Stewart, Antler Theatre Civilisation (or a day in the life of a woman following a tragic event). A theatrical experiment from the creator behind critically acclaimed, Lands. Jaz Woodcock-Stewart from award-winning company Antler collaborates with choreographer Morgann Runacre-Temple. Developed with support…