In the Ink Dark


Leith Theatre, Edinburgh


Mary Brennan


four stars


THIS event, part of LeithLate 17, proved to be rather special. Whether audience members had visited Leith Theatre in its thriving years – the venue closed in 1988 – or were seeing its now peeling grandeur for the first time, it immediately felt an appropriate space for In the Ink Dark, Luke Pell’s imaginative foray into the stuff of memories. There are four parts so far: conversations with local people about past times and remembered places, evocative podcasts (contributed by performers) and the dance work shown in Leith Theatre; a publication is in prospect, while other performances of the live choreography are scheduled throughout the coming week.


Intimacy and informality were a key part of what Pell and the dancers had devised. Instead of being on-stage, they used the empty stalls. We sat on scattered chairs, and as the soundscape – composed by Scott Twynholm – swirled gently and rhythmically around the space, the dancers slipped into their own, individual episodes of movement. Simply clad in loose linen tunics and trousers (the colour palette was mostly greys), they had a ghostly charm as they raised ecstatic arms to the glass cupola overhead or coiled up on the much-scuffed floor, as if listening to echoes of bygone feet trooping in for long ago attractions.


As the dancers wove between our chairs at unhurried close quarters, visual artist Brian Hartley pinned his dynamic charcoal sketches of them onto the long grey falls of cloth hanging from the balcony. We were in the midst of art as it was being created, this stimulating immediacy extending into the poetry read by Luke Pell in the closing moments. It is a moveable feast, and details of forthcoming performances can be found on the website