#18 The Last One

Dance ( Physical Theatre, Absurdist, Contemporary ) Bruford, Summerhall

The Last One is a complex dance piece from independent performers Gema Galiana and Anthony Nikolchev of company The Useless Room, with support from Julian Sandoval.

The frame of the story is loosely based on the true story of the final Kauai O'o bird who sang the last mating song of his species, waiting for a response that never came. "The Last One is a rite against our inertia towards destruction."

"The important thing is that we can still laugh, and we haven't splattered anyone with blood. The important thing is that we are still standing, and we haven't become cowards or cannibals." — Roberto Bolaño

On the stage there are three performers, glorified ragdolls riffing off one another. Galiana the woman, and the men. Piles of stones, black canvas strips, a microphone+speaker setup, a pile of the blackest soil of the earth, a ladder, some beat up buckets in simple pulley setups, and dark feathers.

At first a feather sees action at the hands and exhales of the woman. The boys play with the buckets full of stones. They start competing as men do. They put on ties, enter the business world as men. They compete, climb their (corporate) ladders. The woman puts on a shawl of feathers and falls about, with the men catching her as she goes. Young birds at play, establishing relations.

As the woman falls dangerously, the men struggle to catch her. Intermittently, the microphone is spoken to by one of the men. The men begin assembling stones. In corners, they stand up on the stone piles that crumble as they step up. They rebuild and redo. The ups and downs of life, plans crumbling.

The woman digs out a mask from the soil, violently spreading the soil around her in sharp shoots, digging like a dog. The mask, a worship idol of polynesian design, is hoisted up from a pulley cord left bare with the bucket removed. The woman lies prone under the mask.

The men start slowly moving their piles in the middle of the stage, the woman tries to intervene. It's a funeral pyre, or a nest perhaps. The woman is repeatedly cast away, but always ends up standing by the central pile. The men pile stones in her arms, until she is overcome. The last one standing of her kind.

Soil from the corner pile is poured over the standing woman, first off the ladder, and then as she falls, just over her from the bucket. She is covered in soil and nestled on the rocks. Gone.

One of the men impossibly impales himself against a wall with the ladder. The other one walks into the distance, the side of the stage. With the last woman gone, all the men have is an end at their own terms.

Beautiful contrasts from soft feather, hard rocks. Life floating in the air as a bird, lifeless rocks on the ground. Buried in soil, idol mask in the air.

A deceptively simple, deep show, that manages to intrigue, but doesn't quite share all of its secrets. Neat and messy all in one.

Go see if contemporary movement is your jam.