Dance, physical theatre & circus review: POP-UP Duets (fragments of love)

Choreographer Janis Claxton is no stranger to public spaces. Her previous works have been performed in an enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo and the same museum hall her POP-UP Duets now reside.

POP-UP Duets at National Museum of Scotland Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2016
POP-UP Duets at National Museum of Scotland Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2016

Star rating: ****

Venue: National Museum of Scotland (Venue 179)

But when you “take contemporary dance to the masses” as Claxton puts it, you also take on a large responsibility. Namely to show those who have yet to discover the joys of live dance just what they’ve been missing.

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The fact that she achieves that so completely, is merely one of the many reasons POP-UP Duets is an undisputed dance highlight of the 2016 Fringe. So many factors come together here, to produce a series of beautiful but fleeting moments in time. Claxton herself has produced quite possibly the best choreography she’s ever created. Nine duets, each unique in its own way, exploring love and affection from a different angle. Playful yet understated, captivating yet subtle, the movement feels as natural as breathing on the dancers.

The next delicious ingredient in the pot is the dancers. Claxton has pulled together four performers who blend into the crowd one minute, command our attention the next. In the hands of Christina Liddell, Carlos J Martinez, Adrienne O’Leary and James Southward, her choreography glides perfectly from one space to the next, prompting passers-by to stop in their tracks and observe.

But as with many site-specific pieces, the call to watch is aural rather than visual, and here Claxton has really hit the jackpot. Composer Pippa Murphy assembled her own dream team of musicians to record her original score for the piece – including three songs sung by Scottish Album of the Year winner, Kathryn Joseph.

Put all this together against the backdrop of the Museum of Scotland and, importantly, make it free to watch – and you’ve got something truly special.

Until 28 August. Tomorrow 3:30pm.