Anaesthetic aesthetic

An unusual subject provides inspiration for performance art group Bouge-de-l in its latest production. Clare Dowdy visits Time Flying and leaps into the unknown.

It is no mean feat to devise a show around the visions of a drugged patient under the knife. And the way the concept evolved needs some explaining. Ceramic artist John Maltby made a sculpture entitled Three Sinister Birds following his experiences under anaesthetic for major heart surgery. The sculpture found its way to performance art group Bouge-de-l, which constructed its latest show around the piece.

Time Flying has a dream-like quality and features a series of characters and events intended to loosely represent the experience of life flashing before you. The sparsely furnished stage is dominated by the model of a vast, barrel-chested man in a ruffled dinner shirt. The man’s chest splits open like a pair of doors to allow performers Lucy O’Rorke, Aurelian Koch and Andrew Dawson access and exit between scenes.

Some of these vignettes have more impact than others – the faceless birds with wings and head-pieces fashioned, seemingly, from an impressively stretched prophylactic – are enchanting. Synchronised pecking is the order of the day, and with very little movement the actors manage to give a real sense of flight.

When the birds eventually lift their heads the audience is treated to three pairs of Nana Mouskouri glasses – unlikely, yet somehow fitting. These, along with identical stringy black wigs become part of the props.

A more upbeat and perhaps easier to follow sketch features Dawson as a blank-faced waiter blinking hard as two girlfriends arrive at a bar. The flirtatious interaction between the three of them is funny and cleverly observed, although perhaps that particular omelette is rather over-egged and could be cut a little.

Having lulled the audience into a sense of comic security, the scene switches to one of grief, reflecting life’s rich tapestry of events and emotions. This sketch is possibly the hardest to follow, although visually it has good impact.

Time Flying is experimental and sometimes challenging. There are lots of memorable moments, such as some pretty shadow-puppetry with hands appearing out of the model’s collar.

O’Rorke, Koch and Dawson, who are all dance and movement graduates, work hard to lift the scenes and one has the feeling that the show will tighten up with each performance.

Time Flying, which premiered at the Komedia Theatre in Brighton, was commissioned by South East Touring Agency. It tours nationwide until March, and will be at London’s Battersea Arts Centre on 25 October.

For Bouge-de-l tour dates, contact Chenine Bhathena on 0181-348 0203

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