Theatre review: The Venus Labyrinth


THERE are 28 destinations in The Venus Labyrinth: places to visit, spaces to explore, scenes to see and hear as you follow your lone path around the tunnels of the Arches, each one corresponding to one of the known areas of the human brain, from visual memory and sense of touch, to sexuality and projection.

In a single 75-minute visit, though, you can only experience three of these places, chosen at random when you make a selection of objects and dolls as you enter; this makes the show as a whole impossible to review, since the number of different combinations is vast.

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Yet from the three places I visited, I would say that the labyrinth – designed by Danish group Cantabile 2 seven years ago, and now recreated for the current Surge Festival by a group of 14 Scottish and international artists – richly fulfils its intention of exploring female minds and experience from a unique perspective that combines movement and reflection, installation and sound, and the strange, intimate aesthetic of one-on-one performance that has been developing over the past decade.

Of the three scenes I experienced, Eva Baltzer's Muscle Movement involves moving around a dark space, bound together with the performer so that you can feel and consider your shared balance and breathing.

Signe Harder Levlin's Auditory Memory is a breathtakingly vivid recollection of her grandmother, created through sounds and occasional glimpsed images in darkness; Mazz Marsden's Visual Memory is a journey into unhappy childhood, involving sad explorations of a kind of trust that links us more strongly to strangers than to friends or family.

None is brilliant in itself. Yet the combination is strangely haunting and reflective, and fiercely female; a story of a quest for true intimacy always disappointed, but also of beauty, possibility, and a kind of love.

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