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Review: Theatre

Invisible Empire

Invisible Empire

Summerhall

Neil Cooper

An open door and an East European chorale that tugs five ways but remains emotively harmonious is the scene-setter for the Glasgow-based but Polish-inspired Company of Wolves ensemble's fifty minute meditation on conformity, resistance and community. Involving music from four countries, a frantic physicality and a fractured text drawn from the writings of incarcerated Red Army Faction co-founder, Ulrike Meinhof, Ewan Downie's production begins with the quintet acting in near robotic unison before rising up one by one to rebel against, well, anything that's going, really.

This may be just a passing phase of restless youth, however, even as the sound of metal chairs scraped slowly across the floor becomes a little atonal symphony. Later, the same chairs are beaten with uniform ferocity. Only when a man possessed has his demons sucked out of him with a prolonged kiss do things change into something both more individual and more accepting of others.

It's a committed, meticulously choreographed and orchestrated affair that is working towards a ritualistic aesthetic that nevertheless remains rooted in the real world. While the voices and physical tics remain disparate and unique, there's an instinctive recognition that ultimately only collective, co-dependent action can change things, and that love as much as anger is vital to achieve such a goal.

For the moment, at least, it's the vocal musical arrangements by Downie with performer Anna Porubcansky that gives Invisible Empire its strength. The arrangements sound by turns mournful and defiant, and when the final collective howl comes as the world slowly dims around the performers gathered in an ever tightening circle, it's a cry from the dark that lingers.

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