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Review: Birth (Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh)

Theatre Re return to the Fringe a multi-generational new show

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Birth
© Hannah Anketell

Theatre Re, which has now been creating work for a solid decade, excels at transforming small, intimate stories into whirling, viscerally physical extravagance. The same applies to the company's new piece Birth, which was first seen at this year's London International Mime Festival where it generated a big wad of buzz.

Starting with a simple table and chairs on stage, three generations of the same family wash and wave over one another. Lovers, mothers, fathers and more come and go, portrayed by a cast of five. Children are born, parents die, mourning is replaced by mirth.

The passage of time is marked by a giant sheet, flown across the stage by the constantly kinetic cast, under the direction of Guillaume Pigé. The sheet works perfectly in tandem with Katherine Graham's lighting, fleetingly silhouetting moments as characters appear and disappear like some conjuring trick.

Key to the show's power is composer Alex Judd, who sits in the midst of the audience playing multiple instruments, looping strings and chords together in a neat patchwork. Arpeggios leap as emotions soar, while broken chords whisper during moments of heartbreak. Watching Judd in action is almost as mesmeric as what's happening on stage.

Ultimately, Birth shares a lot of similarities with the company's previous piece The Nature of Forgetting – both explore the ways in which memories and experiences shape family dynamics. In Birth we see generations writing their own legacies, tearing out the pages of the past and painful chapters of their lives at the expense of their children and grandchildren. It's a quietly charged watch, at times uncomfortably cerebral.

Early on the piece's incessant cyclical structure starts to slip into mundanity, but it's a necessary lull to make for an affecting finish. It might be in its tenth year but the company still feels as fresh as ever.

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