Atlantis Banal: Beneath the Surface

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

Mary Brennan

five stars

Gosh! It’s not often that Atlantis Banal’s work crosses the Atlantic. Her conceptual pieces, tinged with that visionary ability to find something profoundly mystical in the commonplace and everyday, has made Banal the darling of New York’s avant-garde cognoscenti.

Oh, wow! The Pop Up Art Gallery has yet another surprise in store – Atlantis, herself, will talk us through the ideas and processes that inform such radical, thought-provoking pieces as ‘If you try to capture something - do you kill it?’ and ‘Does it make sense?’ Two very care-taking museum staff ensure we don’t walk on the long white floor between opposing video screens. An elegant curator arrives, gives us some intriguingly bizarre biographical details about Atlantis – and then, swathed in a mesh of fishing net, sea-shells and fairy lights, Atlantis is among us, making Art.

All three characters are, in fact, manifestations of the remarkable and ingenious Shona Reppe whose fanciful imagination is allied to a thrillingly inventive skills set. Reppe consistently crafts costumes and props with an attention to detail that always goes the extra, witty mile, the humour and flair all the more impressive because of how she uses ordinary bits and bobs – like string, coat-hangers, little miniatures animals, tin cans.

Ahhh – cans. Yes, there is a nod in the direction of Andy Warhol in Banal’s oeuvre. Adults will relish the sly references to famous instances of conceptual art but younger audiences will be merrily caught up in the glorious, off-the-wall eccentricity of Reppe’s own works of art.

If the surface here is drolly tongue-in-cheek, what lies beneath - assisted by technical wizard Tamlin Witshire and co-directed by Charlot Lemoine (Velo Theatre, France) – is a seriously considered reflection on what art ‘is’... The answers are up to you, but one thing is certain sure - play, theatre, art and creativity all matter whatever your age. Atlantic Banal is the inspirational living proof of that.