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Civilisation review at Underbelly Cowgate, Edinburgh – ‘sensitive but indulgent’

Civilisation from Antler Theatre at Underbelly, Edinburgh. Photo: Alex Brenner Civilisation from Antler Theatre at Underbelly, Edinburgh. Photo: Alex Brenner
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Barely a word is spoken in Civilisation, the bold new collaboration between Antler Theatre’s Jaz Woodcock-Stewart and choreographer Morgann Runacre-Temple.

A woman – Sophie Steer, who’s also in Breach Theatre’s It’s True, It’s True, It’s True every day – leaves her flat for a funeral, then returns. She fries an egg. She watches Dragons’ Den. She briefly plays Bop It with a friend. She breaks down while trying to change her duvet.

It quickly becomes clear that we are watching her grieve for a lost lover. In Steer’s quietly remarkable performance, everything is done with a hollow air of desolation. There’s a desperate heaviness to her actions and expressions that betrays an aching abyss inside. She’s silent, but she’s screaming. Grief is everyday, Civilisation makes clear. It’s banal.

For all its sensitivity, though, there’s also a lot that’s indulgent and unnecessary about Civilisation. Throughout, under Runacre-Temple’s choreography, three dancers echo Steer’s movements, darting around the stage, sometimes fluidly, sometimes frenziedly. Music, classical and pop, suddenly starts and stops over the sound system as well, without warning.

Those two over-fussy flourishes detract from the sombre sensitivity of Steer’s performance. They obstruct it, and dilute its rawness. They hinder what is otherwise a highly moving portrait of the pain of losing someone.

Ticker review at Underbelly Cowgate, Edinburgh – ‘important, but slightly unconvincing’


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A sensitive, near-wordless, but indulgent portrait of grief from director Jaz Woodcock-Stewart and choreographer Morgan Runacre-Temple