Fringe Dance review: Hope Hunt and the Ascension Into Lazarus

Hope Hunt and the Ascension Into Lazarus | Dance Base (22) | Star rating: ****

There’s one big problem with Hope Hunt and the Ascension Into Lazarus – that it’s over far too soon. Choreographer and performer Oona Doherty spends just 30 minutes with us, and it’s far too brief an encounter with such a powerful stage presence.

Our first glimpse of her is when she tumbles out of the boot of a car on to the road, dropped off by actor Aaron Hickland, huge stereo blaring through the car window. Not the usual tourist-friendly fare the Grassmarket sees during the Fringe, but then there’s nothing usual about Doherty.

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She begins to dance and her movement is instantly captivating. A hint of hip hop, a swirl of contemporary, a swagger of dance theatre – we have no idea what’s happening or where this is going – but it’s clearly going somewhere. And then we’re off inside the theatre, into our seats and into the underbelly of life. This is dance with grit in its veins, with dirt under its fingernails and a violent secret in its heart. Words are repeated over and over until they morph into something new, spat out with anger; Doherty oozing her own brand of testosterone as she changes accent to become one bottom-of-the-heap man after another.

The audience connection here is extraordinary. She looks us in the eye, points her finger at us, flings her body on the floor in defiance, and for some inexplicable reason all this minor aggression starts to become incredibly moving. The pile of Saturday night rubbish in the corner doesn’t help – a metaphor for lives led on the margins, that comes into play only once but sits there as a constant reminder.

Sarah Gordon’s soundscape, a mix of electronica, noise and brilliantly distorted snatches of Bronski Beat’s Smalltown Boy seal our emotional fate.

• Until 20th August.