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It Folds review at Summerhall, Edinburgh – ‘harrowing and elegiac’

It Folds by Junk Ensemble and Brokentalkers. Photo: Futoshi Sakauchi It Folds by Junk Ensemble and Brokentalkers. Photo: Futoshi Sakauchi

In 2013, Dublin-based company Brokentalkers brought the gut-thumping Have I No Mouth to Edinburgh, the profoundly personal story of the death of director Feidlim Cannon’s father 10 years previously. This year they return with a similarly mournful collaboration with dance group Junk Ensemble: It Folds, a less spiky work that takes an elegiac route through unimaginable tragedy.
A child has gone missing, possibly abducted, possibly dead. We hear from him in the guise of a white-sheeted ghost, and then we see him as a plaything, thrown back and forth, and then as a child’s corpse, dragged through grave-dirt by a shivering angel. His parents’ marriage falls apart, the father was late picking him up from school, and the mother slaps him as he explains. We see them as two parts of a pantomime horse, ripping itself apart.

The imagery is at once haunting and beguiling, the musical interludes, whether in the form of a ballad strummed on a banjo or a full choir of ghosts that permute the phrase ‘Happy Birthday’, are spine-tingling. But, particularly set against Have I No Mouth, there’s a lack of real edge to the material. The wounds left by that earlier show still sting three years on – It Folds builds and passes like a the shadow of some terrible, beautiful dream.

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Harrowing and elegiac, this is a beautiful but rather soft-focus story of child abduction