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“Sensitive but indulgent”

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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Production Details
Production nameCivilisation
VenueUnderbelly Cowgate
StartsAugust 16, 2019
EndsAugust 25, 2019
Running time1hr
DirectorJaz Woodcock-Stewart
ChoreographerMorgann Runacre-Temple
Set designerCharlotte Espiner
Lighting designerAlex Fernandes
CastAlethia Antonia, Emily Thompson-Smith, James Olivo, Seda Yildiz, Sophie Steer
TechnicalEve Allin
VerdictA sensitive, near-wordless, but indulgent portrait of grief from director Jaz Woodcock-Stewart and choreographer Morgan Runacre-Temple
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Fergus Morgan

Fergus Morgan

Fergus Morgan

Fergus Morgan

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