EFR - Reviews of Hydronomicon

Hydronomicon

Sat 6th – Sat 27th August 2011

reviews

Natalya Din-Kariuki

at 11:52 on 12th Aug 2011

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Performed in the dark heart of the Banshee Labyrinth, Free Fringe production "Hydronomicon" features the collaboration of slam poet Harlequinade and producer Asthmatic Astronaut in a show that surprises, intrigues and terrifies in bringing together spoken word and physical theatre. This will not be what you are expecting, no matter what that is. Harlequinade's poetry is intensely visceral - violent spits of images thick with lyrical finesse and learning that grabs the audience and drags it through history, through deserts and seas and horizons. Harlequinade's use of physical movement allows him to imitate the rapid movement of his poetry - he metamorphoses, becoming a plant, a wave, a politician, a building - and his flexibility and physical control is admirable.

However, the overall effect of this performance is one of an overload - Harlequinade is dressed as a clown with a spectacularly long nose, wildly gesticulating, glaring and growling, and that coupled with deep red lighting and sinister backing music makes the experience a strange one. I could not help but feel that this piece would have been even more powerful if the performer had used a rawer set and costume. In a piece that pivots around the body, it would have been ideal if the performer's body was not obscured by a clown costume and bizarre lighting, and the poetry not drowned out by relentless sound effects and beats. Stripped of these superfluous elements, this performer's physicality and poetry would shock and challenge the audience even more than it does already. Pushed back against their seats by the force of the performance, the audience left looking overwhelmed and confused as Harlequinade sat still and staring in a corner. This was surely the aim of the performance - and its theme of apocalypse - but greater subtlety and understatement would take this radical artist even further in harnessing the potential of the body and spoken word as an art form. I would recommend this to anyone interested in spoken word, and am certainly curious to see what Harlequinade does next.

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sophie ainscough

at 11:58 on 12th Aug 2011

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After finally locating Hydronomicon in what is genuinely a dimly lit labyrinth of rooms, I found myself faced with an unsettling mix of fast moving poetic performance art presented by a clown, his white painted face, black eyes and garish red mouth strongly lit by watery green lighting. The eerily unnerving music captured the sound of water, moving from fish tank to rain like in line with the subject matter change of the words. Even the clown’s huge false nose appeared water directed, wavering in an appropriately unstable fashion alongside the frequent grasping, swimming or octopus like hand gestures. Initially I was bewildered by the concept of a clown with spikes on his shoulders voicing seemingly senseless combinations of words. Once this disorientation has been accepted, however, immersion in the admirably articulated, tongue twisting syllables of this watery underworld is unavoidable. Unable myself even to pronounce the title of Harlequinade’s act, his performance and pronunciation was immaculate. The shifting scenes of apocalypse, from where water is overflowing to absent, reminded me momentarily of a modern, sci-fi take on ‘The Waste Land’ in its search for lost hope and water, water, water. Changes in the sequence were marked by mime and hand gestures, perfectly timed to the background music and culminating in a sudden, startling finish. The intensity of the performance was astonishing, Harlequinade locking eye contact with each audience member in turn, accompanied by at times terrifying facial expressions, and on the whole creating a thoroughly unsettling atmosphere. The combination of clown and apocalyptic, sci-fi content - the mutant flesh of human torsos sprouting fish-like fins and tails, proved brilliantly inventive, if disturbing. Harlequinade maintained his hold over the room even as his words faded away, as he backed away to the far wall and descended to a seat, continuing to stare and grin manically as the audience slowly shook themselves out of their watery oblivion.

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