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Edinburgh Reviews: Move, Brownton Abbey & Every Dollar is a Soldier

Edinburgh Reviews: Move, Brownton Abbey & Every Dollar is a Soldier

Edinburgh Reviews: Move, Brownton Abbey & Every Dollar is a Soldier cover photo on Stagedoor
Lyn Gardner's latest Edinburgh fringe dispatch looks at three contrasting digital works.

In Move (Traverse 3 online) the howl of the wind, the howl of the sea and the howl of women’s voices come in waves. Created by Disaster Plan and Slung Low, Julia Taudevin’s dramatic choral piece was performed live on Silverknowles beach at the start of the festival. It now comes reimagined in digital format. It is a haunted piece that sings what cannot be spoken. Language and its erosion are a ribbon that runs through the show.

Grief and migration are the themes, and it begins with a woman standing at the water’s edge clutching a plastic bag for life full of ashes. Mingling folk songs and keening rituals from around the world it reminds that few of us belong in one place and how stories of migration are always stories of loss. How can you not think of the babies and children passed into the arms of soldiers at Kabul airport when you hear Taudevin’s story of a refugee running across a beach who squats to give birth and throws the newborn into the departing boat where she is caught in a stranger’s arms?

I suspect that the in-person performances packed an extra punch because of the immensity of the sky and sea, the feel of the whipping wind on your face. But it still has tremendous power, and when the voices rise and overlap it brings a tingle down the spine as if you are hearing the past speaking directly to the present and future.

Brownton Abbey. Photo by Matthew Arthur Williams

There is similar quality in B2B, Nima Sene’s Sun Ra inspired vocal meditation on when there is no sun, one of four films as part of The Brownton Abbey Talk Show (Horizon on-line). It is a beautiful, evocative interlude, one that comes with beaded heads rattling as two noses nudge each other. Just delightful. And very ASMR.

Altogether, Brownton Abbey is a gas. A gentle, thoughtful one. The brainchild of Tarik Elmoutawakil, aka Laud Brownton, the Brownton experience centres disabled, queer artists of colour. In digital form it offers four short films interspersed with revealing interviews that contextualise and celebrate. You see the artist, not just the work. In All I Ever Wanted, Malik Nashad Sharpe soars, arms akimbo, reclaiming a space and taking ownership of it. In Where Are You From, Lasana Shabazz turns the tables on those who pose that inane passive aggressive question with magnificent swagger, and in Re[Union] Sonny Nwachukwu searches, trying to regain the spirituality that was part of growing up in religion.

Every Dollar is a Soldier/With Money You’re a Dragon. Photo by Ian Gallagher.

Also, part of the Horizon Showcase comes Every Dollar is a Soldier/With Money You’re a Dragon, a piece produced by Chinese Arts Now. A virtual promenade, it takes place in a virtual gallery inspired by Two Temple Place, the neo-Gothic mansion founded by the multi-millionaire William Waldorf Astor when he emigrated from the US to the UK. Astor’s fortunes are set alongside those of the poor Chinese sailors who arrived in the UK seeking their own fortunes and who know that with money you can be a dragon but without it you are “a worm.” The show is dense but informative.

Virtual promenade may well be the theatrical artform of the future, but I kept getting lost and seldom knew exactly where I should be and what I should be looking at. That’s quite stressful, but negotiating a new world was more stressful still for those Chinese immigrants who arrived in an inhospitable England hoping to transform their fortunes. Some came driven by a plan for one year: to plant rice. Others were planning a hundred years ahead intent on making the money needed to educate a child.

Cover image from Move.

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Lyn Gardner

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