Review: Hocus Pocus ***

Edinburgh International Festival

Hocus Pocus

The Studio

14.00, 18.00 (run ends 12 August)

*** (3 stars)

This show was advertised as being for children, and being set to Grieg’s music from the Peer Gynt Suite… I sat through 45 incomprehensible minutes, and at the end asked the young person next to me what they thought of it. First she came up with “mad” and then “weird” and when asked if she’d liked it, politely said she’d seen things that were a lot better. On our way out, her sister confirmed my initial reaction to the show by shrugging when asked to find a word to describe it and then nodding when I suggested “rubbish”.

Now, maybe it’s because I’m not French… but really I couldn’t see what the point of the work was. Technically it was extremely clever: two parallel horizontal neon tubes framed an area in which two male dancers [Ismael Diartzabal and Mikaël Henrotay Delaunay] gyrated and twisted in gravity-defying ways, to a varied soundtrack [snatches of Grieg, a load of metal hammers clattering, sounds of the sea, silence punctuated by noises, exclamations, and even remarks from the dancers, along the lines of “I said stop!” and “Let me go!”. At times there was a single dancer, at times they were together: and the cleverness came from their use of body parts – a foot, an arm, a hand, a fist – coming out of the darkness, sometimes to form weird creatures in the darkness, at times simply parts of the bodies of Victor and Lukas.

These two made their way through the darkness battling monsters, getting stuck in a giant spider’s web, being eaten by a giant many-toothed sea monster….at times they fought, at times they embraced, and towards the end of the piece when they had both somehow survived being immersed in the sea and swallowed by monsters, their movements had homo-erotic overtones: but at no point did I see any sign of what the programme promised – “a wondrous tale of how bravery and confidence can overcome darkness and fear” – and the show ended, as it began, with bodies fading into the darkness.

I have to say if I’d paid £22 for my ticket I would be most disgruntled! As I got a freebie, it wasn’t so disastrous: but I have rarely spent a more boring three-quarters of an hour. A pity, as I had hoped for a magical encounter with heroes who would fight monsters and darkness and emerge better and stronger for the struggle: what I got was a disappointingly drab and uninspiring forty-five minutes literally and metaphorically in the dark…

Mary Woodward