Review from: Vault Festival, London; 3rd March, 2019
Before we start, some context. Every time I see a show I try to go in with a neutral, open mind. Today was not a neutral, open minded day. Having struggled all morning with technical glitches, cried a lot over my broken laptop, and made my way to The Vaults in the pouring rain – only for my phone to die before I got a chance to locate my emailed ticket – it is fair to say I was feeling the stress of modern life getting me down. Alana Bloom soon put this all in to prospective for me with her conscience jolting show, Artemis.
Artemis, a Greek goddess of wild animals, vegetation and the hunt, is brought to life from the rubble and carnage humans have brought upon the world, to deliver an powerful message: If we forget our respect for nature, we will be the cause of our own undoing.
Delivered through spoken word, song, dance, movement and aerial work, Artemis is a great example of cross disciplinary art forms working harmoniously to create an experience that draws an audience in and spits them back out. Provoking and unforgiving, the piece had many in the audience moved to tears, not because the message is sad, but because Bloom’s performance is so powerful and heartfelt. By the end of the performance I feel a sense of guilt over being so emotional about such trivial matters earlier that day.
The smell of damp that hangs in the raw brick chamber – the air so thick with moisture I can taste as it hits my throat – gives the perfect environment for the piece, adding texture and weight to the post-apocalyptic vibe. If only I could have reached out and touched the ghostly deer skull that Bloom’s Artemis levitates across the stage, then every sense would have been brought to life. If anything, my only issue with the venue was its depth. Unlike a conventional theatre, the depth of the stage in the chamber cannot easily be altered and, although it’s clear that great consideration had been taken in lighting the stage in a way that cuts the depth in half, there is still an uneasy sense of unused space. Maybe this was intentional, to create a sense of unknowing or mystery, but personally I would have preferred this space to be utilised.
The highlight of the piece has got to be the spoken word. Bloom’s writing and delivery is faultless, the poetic words echo around empty space, resonating through the audience. I will admit that after the first section of spoken word I wondering why she wasn’t more angry: She speaks of times long past when there was a balance in the world and respect for nature, seeming peaceful in this nostalgia. The lighthearted aerial silk performance that follows continues this theme of happy memories as we see Artemis climb, twist and suspend with relative ease, inquisitive and graceful. As the sequence draws to an end, with Artemis running through the out stretched silks and abruptly halting just before the front row, the atmosphere through the chamber changes, becoming darker and colder. My want for anger was quickly fulfilled.
The second half of the show holds me to account and calls me to arms in one fell swoop. It is rare to find a performer who can speak and move with equal conviction. The ritualistic dance becomes frenzied, and the words are delivered in such a way that each line seems to leave a sting as the audience come to understand our role within this story. But the ending is yet to be decided – we could be the villains or the heroes. As Artemis disappears back to the darkness from which she came, I can’t help but consider the bigger picture. How many warnings does it take before we accept responsibility for the world we live in?