It was fantastic to see the Muni almost full to welcome home Citrus Arts on the last leg of their national tour of Ceirw Savage Hart. This is a co-production between Citrus Arts, The Roses in Tewksbury and Pontio in Bangor.
Set in a dilapidated manor house that has seen better days, we are transported to a gothic time when nature had a powerful hold over man. The lord of the manor is obsessed with controlling nature by killing the local animals and keeping their heads as trophies on his wall. Anna-Marie Hainsworth’s set suggests fragments of a former glorious house now in tatters apart from the trophy wall.
Bridie and James Doyle-Roberts strive to blend spectacle with physical skills. In this piece they have whole heartedly succeeded in creating a visually stunning piece of theatre that mixes narrative dance with aerial skills. The story is directly inspired by the exploits of the Johnes family on the Hafod Estate in Mid Wales. Bridie grew up next to this estate and used to play there as a child. There is a very clear aesthetic that is enhanced by beautiful lighting by Andy Purves who creates moments of clarity without being instrusive.
The piece is set between the age of enlightenment and the romantic period. The Nobleman embodies man’s need to categorise and control nature and his wife represents man seeking more spiritual solace in nature. She is captivated by the deer and even flirts with the stag in order to get her husband to notice her once more. The performers wear beautiful full head masks that creates the illusion of nature reaching into theirs and our worlds.
The mixture of dance and aerial work blends well. The performers tumble and writhe on the silks and ropes in a breathtaking display of skill and strength. There were times when it felt like using the aerial trickery was slightly separate from the narrative, but there were also moments of sheer beauty interwoven into the story. The moment when the doe was gracefully galloping around the stage with the aid of ropes with the wife was a stunning moment that really transported me to a woodland.
The score composed by Simon McCorry and performed live by him and cellist James Minas-Blight was evocative, playful and at times jarring, but really added to the production. Citrus Arts wanted to make sure the narrative was at the forefront and I really think that they have succeeded. The mixture of dance, music, circus and masks certainly conjours up the world they are trying to create. Knowing the company and their work, they really are pushing the boundaries of what is possible and this production is testament to their hard work and dedication.
The show succeeds on many levels. Its looks beautiful, it sounds beautiful, the performers are talented and the narrative comes through very clearly. Hopefully, it will get an outing in Edinburgh next year.