The Phoenix and the Crow

Dance, Physical Theatre and Circus

Sweet Grassmarket

Venue 18

15.35 (run ends 20th Aug)

 

We were given an opportunity to speak with the director after the show – this is a show that is still being developed, and she wanted our feedback.  One audience member queried the lack of story for the Crow, and we were told that the whole show is much longer and had to be seriously cut to fit a Fringe slot.  This explains why he appeared as narrator with little attention being paid to his story – he was the bread in the sandwich of which the story of Shayna and Zakir was the filling.  The venue was extremely small, which must have hampered the dancers, reducing the opportunity for expansive movement and full expression: I look forward to seeing the full show, in a larger venue, at a future Fringe.

Those things apart, this show sparkled and shone.

Shayna, a dancer, and Rahil, a poet, are good friends – the poet wishes they were more. Shayna concentrates obsessively on reaching the pinnacle of her career in the big city, and believes that her latest performance was wonderful.  Rahil tells her plainly that it was empty and heartless.  Shayna is first outraged, but when she sees Nuhoor dance and learns of the ‘dark dancers’, she realises what she is lacking: she must find them and learn from them.  She sets off into the unknown, inviting Rahil to go with her – but he is reluctant to leave the city, although he wants to be with her.  She arrives at the village but can’t contact the dancers: instead, she meets Zakir, who is a guardian of the village – she wants to learn martial arts from him, and he agrees, after she has proved her worthiness by performing unending menial tasks.  She then meets one of the dark dancers, Nuhoor, who reluctantly agrees to train her – and teaches Shayna to reach inside to all the aspects of her femaleness: the dark, ugly and threatening as well as the bright and attractive.  It transforms her dancing – she is now the Phoenix, risen from the flames and incandescent with beauty.  Zakir realises he is in love with her, and discovers that she loves him in return.  Zakir is torn between his love for Shayna and his duty as guardian of the village: he can’t cope, and leaves, while Shayna returns to the city.  It all ends happily for them – but not for Rahil, who realises he, by his timidity and hesitation, has lost the woman he loves.

Jake McGarry made the most of his limited part in the story, and managed subtly to convey hopeless devotion and a broken heart: I look forward to learning more of his story.  Janina Blohm Sievers was an impressive dancer till Pragati Bhatia’s Nuhoor came sinuously onstage, and wiped the floor with her.  Shayna’s transformation from empty airhead to flaming phoenix was fascinating, and owed much to Nuhoor’s example – Pragati has such expressive hands, and such a sinuous body, which delights in its physicality and rejoices in expressing this in dance as she encourages Shayna to develop that same delight.  And then there was Reza Naserri’s Zakir… tall, dark, handsome, with a powerful stage presence and impressive martial arts and movement skills: really, the poor Crow didn’t stand a chance – I can only hope that he will also find a fitting mate.

The audience was small, but extremely appreciative.

 

Mary Woodward