Music: Tim Blazdell.
Writers/Directors: Two Destination Language.
Reviewer: Sam Lowe
“Belonging neither here nor there”, as the audience are told in the performance, Declining Solo is a show which fluctuates between the multiple layers of what makes up identity. It explores the father and daughter relationship, a woman’s relationship to her culture, her home, how the past affects the present, and how the present affects the past. The company fuse spoken word, choreography, video, and music, to devise a visual and aesthetically beautiful storytelling experience. Inspired by Two Destination Language’s own personal stories and their interest in memory, the show is about a woman who returns to visit her family home in Bulgaria, and misses the one thing she values the most, the father she remembers.
Katherine Radeva has a gentle stage presence, bringing out a childlike fascination as she revisits the memory of the woman’s childhood. Lurking, watching, and guiding the audience through the story is a mythical figure, perhaps father figure, as well played by Alister Lownie. The production successfully conveys a sensory experience, as she attempts to restore her memories of the past, which are slowly slipping away, been replaced by a Westernised, contemporary culture. The audience smell the freshly cooked peppers she once ate, see what it is like to walk through her hometown on the video, and imagine feeling the lump of coal, which she holds from the “landslide of her past”. Choreographed by Robbie Synge, the dancing is a wonderful insight into Bulgarian culture and the woman’s relationship to her culture. However, some of the movement appears to be a literal translation of the events taking place in the story and does not add much further to certain scenes.
The set consists of hung large strips of paper, Radeva cuts the paper to create many things from: a door, a window, to a picture frame. Also using ripped up paper to make objects, where one touch stimulates another memory. As each strip of paper is peeled away, another layer of her life is revealed, slowly but surely the audience begin to build an archive of events in their mind. The use of paper is an effective choice of material because it is symbolic to the fragility of memory, emotions, and life. As witnessed in the show, a piece of paper may be taped back together, but just like a memory, it is still fragmented and broken.
So what remains? Footprints, coal, coal-stained hands, a paper object, torn paper, and cooked peppers. In the audience’s mind, what remains are traces of a performance, a story, and a life. In the woman’s mind, what remains is a “messy portrait” of the father she remembers.
Reviewed on: 8th November 2017. | Image: Alex Brenner