I AM (4 stars)

This article is from 2014

I Am

Lemi Ponifasio's exploration of war is a raw, brutal howl at Edinburgh International Festival

New-Zealand based MAU’s response to the 100-year anniversary of the start of World War I contains some of the most raw and ungodly images you are likely to see this festival.

Combining dance, theatre, song and poetry it treads a landscape backed by sheet metal where toil, degradation, desperation and death are found. But as well as these there is also great defiance. The opening solo song – a man in military uniform backed by bent-low figures pushing caskets of black across the stage – is performed with such dignity and force it is impossible not to be awed.

What follows is filled with horror looming out of dark spaces, attacking you with its quick unpredictability: flicking mechanical dance; movement so gliding it feels like trickery; howls of pain into an echoing abyss; blood spat onto a white dress. I AM claws into the guts of human ugliness and reaches beneath the senses to scratch at your nerves.

There is however an insistence from director/choreographer Lemi Ponifasio that each segment is played through to its limit – every morsel of power squeezed from every idea. It demands rather than asks for patience from the audience, and sometimes that patience feels stretched.

But to see inside someone else’s mind – as Ponifasio has shown us his – so vividly and unguardedly is a rare privilege. And there are images there you won’t forget. Nor would you want to.

Edinburgh Playhouse, run ended.