Tramway, Glasgow

Mary Brennan

four stars

RELENTLESS traffic noise.The sudden screech of metal, crumping on impact. VOID’s decibel-intense soundscape immediately anchors us in JG Ballard’s Concrete Island. His 20th century Robinson Crusoe doesn’t land on some tropical shore: instead the wealthy architect, Maitland, crashes off the motorway and is marooned on a rubble-strewn outcrop that’s off the radar of the planner’s highway network.

VOID, with its hybrid mix of video/sound design (by David Bernard) and movement (by dancer/choreographer Melanie Forbes-Broomes) is more a distillation of Ballard’s writing than a literal re-enactment. If you know the story, you’ll appreciate the salient references that weave through visuals and movement alike. No prior knowledge of the book is necessary, however: this Tramway commission is structured, delivered and directed (by Bex Anson) with such pummeling force that its narrative of survival in a brutalising, arid environment is viscerally clear.

The large stand-alone screen is already pulsing with patterns– think white noise for the eyes – when Forbes-Broomes tumbles onto the narrow confines in front of it. Her first stretches are a wary test for injuries.Nothing broken, except her way back to (supposed) civilisation. Sloughing off her business clothes, she morphs into an acrobatically lithe, near-feral, being who battles to escape – even turning the now-irrelevant high heels into crampons and attempting to scale the screen. She fails. Her individuality gets increasingly absorbed into the shifting backdrop of colours, lines and jiggles that delivers an abstracted calendar of sunrises and sunsets. She’s trapped in a limbo, her cries for help swallowed by the ear-splitting meld of music and noise. VOID assails you, unnerves you on many levels with Forbes-Broomes unstintingly at the heart of the risk-taking. Homeward-bound, your eyes stray to what’s under those concrete flyovers...