by David Paul Jones in collaboration with Ben Harrison.
Edinburgh University Medical School Anatomy Department Teviot Place EH8 9AG To 28 August 2011.
Tue-Sun 6.30pm, 8pm, 9.30pm.
Runs 1hr 5min.
TICKETS: 0131 228 1404.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 6 August.
Enjoyable experience, but little remains.
This isn’t the first time the Traverse has placed a site-specific show in Edinburgh’s Medical School Anatomy Department. This time they’ve placed Scotland’s site-specific progenitors Grid Iron there, first well-known for Douglas Maxwell’s Decky Does A Bronco, a story of childhood performed on swings in local parks.
What Remains replaces parkland with the cloistered stone of academia. Yet while the building provides an atmosphere, and the perambulatory production brings performer David Paul Jones and the audience into occasional, tantalisingly deceptive close quarters, there’s nothing in the material specific to the site – unless it’s the general metaphor of anatomising music and life, a level of generality that might make almost anything site-specific here.
All the specifics have been added, from the grand piano on which Jones begins playing fearsomely hefty chords and swift passage-work. If there’s over-urgency in the pianism that’s dramatically thematic, for over-commitment is the flavour of the story, hinted at in rooms visited at different times by an audience divided into three groups.
The small numbers are necessary, allowing, for example, nervousness when standing round the walls of a room with a keyboard at its centre. The telephone rings, with Jones commanding people try the opening phrase of his recital as an audition-piece.
He’s never satisfied – artistic necessity looms ever-exigent over the audience as it does within the artist, though the only question people are asked to complete is that of the title, on an application form offered in a room where everyone’s asked to lie on mattresses; even when we sleep there are questions going begging.
There’s plenty of documentary evidence to examine, beside piano and vocal sounds heard at various stages. Perhaps complete knowledge of their identity would make the point more clearly. Despite Jones’ impressive presence (equally impressive when he’s physically absent), and the always intriguing process of discovery, the experience peters out, leaving the reflection that with modern theatrical means it’s possible to turn a conventional playhouse into a laboratory for something like site-specific discoveries, and that it’s merely the strangeness of the place, rather than anything more specific, that’s the added element here.
Performer: David Paul Jones.
Director: Ben Harrison.
Designer: Ali Maclaurin.
Composer: David Paul Jones.