Wrapped in white material, a wooden table and chairs sit expectantly on stage. There’s an instant sense of inbetween-ness, as we wonder if the furniture has already served its purpose. Does it no longer belong here? Or is this an arrival, the start of something new?
ENDLING, Tramway, Glasgow **
Delicately dropping from above, tiny rectangles of brown paper evoke autumn leaves falling, leading us further towards a sense of things drawing to a close. Alison Brown’s beautiful set design suggests all this before a single note is sung or step is danced. It’s a theatrical world full of promise, but one which never quite delivers.
Brown is just one of the talented team behind ENDLING – the term applied to an individual that’s the last of its species. Performing alongside this striking décor are four dancers and three vocalists, who between them attempt to explore Gaelic mourning rituals.
As anyone who has been to a wake or funeral knows, such farewells are often a mix of laughter and sorrow, of deferential quietness and cathartic loudness. Choreographer Rob Heaslip infuses all of this into ENDLING, and his love of the Gaelic language is palpable, with vocalists Robbie Blake, Gillebrìde MacMillan and Michelle O’Rourke ably conveying its poetic beauty.
Often, however, it feels as if both vocalists and dancers are hamstrung by directorial decisions that leave them singing or moving with an intent too obscure, repetitive or esoteric to feel truly meaningful. And the emotional tidal wave of bereavement is barely a trickle. Kelly Apter