I start the day, not by working out, but by watching people do so. Mass Effect by Danish company Himherandit, is a shining example of how physical theatre crosses the threshold between performance and watching real, tangible work unfold in front of you.
The performers line the edge of the stage like Greek statues. Only covered by sleek black and white workout gear, the strength in their bodies is instantly confronting. They show off their vehicles of infinite capability. They prep their bodies with a few stretches here and there, their water bottles and towels at the foot of the front row. It seems a workout is about to begin.
Level one consists of easy jogging and the hint of a soundscape from the shuffle of feet. The performers assume an intentionally obvious smug demeanour, through exaggerated movement and pompous facial expressions. I got the sense they hint at the all too familiar self-indulgence that exercise addict’s process. They silently condescend, through a look in the eyes or a slight purse of the lips. However, it’s executed in a way that invites the audience to laugh, rather than feel condescended to.
The movement gradually becomes more strenuous, as breath begins to become audible and soundscape starts to materialise. The stomping of feet, the beats of counting numbers and breath, beatbox-esque sounds and genuine exclamations of exhaustion. These sounds are in perfect synergy with the movement.
By the final level of intensity, the cast push their bodies beyond exhaustion to a trance-like state of overdrive. Naked and in constant motion, the choreography demands a complete surrender. It began effortless. But ponytails unravelled as the show arrived at a point of harmonious chaos fuelled by the propulsion of mob mentality. An unforgettable feat of physical theatre, the work happened right in front of us. The show’s substance is not hidden, its genuine labour, not performed labour. So tangible is the sheen of sweat and muscles swollen red. Mass Effect is a show all about effect, and effect is all we see.Mass Effect
12:55 @ Summerhall – Main Hall
Aug 20, 22-26