Dance Base, Edinburgh’s National Centre for Dance, contributes an extensive and varied programme to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival with a combination of live and on-demand performances. Live-streamed from Greyfriars Kirk and thereafter available on-demand, Iconnotations is a newly choreographed piece by Matthew Hawkins, performed by Hawkins and Soraya Ham.
This multi-layered fusion of art, dance and live music superimposes the Stations of the Cross onto 16th century anatomical drawings by Vesalius. Iconnotations comprises two main elements. First is a short companion piece: ‘Do you have silence?’ which includes spoken-word text. The second, more substantial, element is a new production of the iconic Vesalii Icones, Peter Maxwell Davies’ rarely performed classic work originally written in 1969.
The level of eccentricity in Iconnotations may not be to some people’s taste; those who prefer a clear cut linearity may struggle to grasp the concept. Others may find the unpredictability adds a surprising and enjoyable dynamic. Indeed there are several moments which seem particularly random, not least the unusual costume changes and set design.
Viewing this performance online has both benefits and drawbacks. On one hand, the close-up camera angles highlight the illustrations by Brian Hartley as well as the intriguing use of instruments that one might miss if watching live. On the other hand, watching on a screen means one misses out on being immersed in the atmosphere of live music, particularly in such a beautiful, significant venue as this one.
The music certainly deserves a special mention. Lionel Handy does a remarkable job on the cello, and is a wonderful partner to Hawkins’ dynamic choreography. The accompaniment from Red Note Ensemble is profoundly beautiful with some surprising percussion elements.
All in all, Iconnotations brings some interesting ideas into an approximately 45-minute production. It’s worth considering that this is a production that perhaps benefits from a live viewing, to fully appreciate the intention and artistry.