At the heart of Dendritical, the latest performance art piece by Christy Ann Brown, lies a contradiction. It is in many respects unpolished, confused and at points bordering on self-parody. And yet, against all the odds, it manages to be consistently engaging, without a dull moment in its 45 minute running time.

Dendritical achieves something that is surprisingly rare for a Fringe show - it holds the audience’s attention from start to finish.

It’s hard to describe exactly what is about. Christy Ann describes it as ‘an intermedia event in spoken text, movement, and video’, but this still reveals very little about the performance. Rather, it takes the form of a rambling monologue, touching on topics such as art, philosophy and psychology, but lingering mostly on Christy Ann’s own concerns, whether they be sexual, emotional or spiritual. This monologue is combined with movement, dance sections and projected video.

When Brown is speaking, the show is at its best. Though some of her language is woefully hammy - she describes sleeping with her lover as “leaping into the blue ocean of his retina” - it has a certain allure. She is so earnest, so clearly believes in what she is saying, that you cannot help but begin to buy into her world view. In particular, her quasi-philosophical musings at the beginning were genuinely interesting, raising questions of personal identity and the nature of art in a unique way.

Nevertheless, however engaging her monologue is, it is frequently spoiled by Christy Ann’s cringe-inducing dancing. It is important for any performer to know their limits, and in this case, Christy Ann has a lot to learn. For a start, if you are incapable of, say, balancing on one leg, or doing a backwards roll, you shouldn’t attempt it. Further, some of the dancing moves beyond inadequacy and into ridiculousness - one particularly awkward simulated sex scene left me squirming in my seat.

The projection is at best unnecessary, and at worse positively distracting. A camerawoman is constantly onstage, filming Christy Ann and projecting a live stream of the footage to a large screen at the back of stage. Whilst occasionally effective, this is more often distracting, as Christy Ann walks in front of the projector, goes out of focus or gets too close to the camera for the audience to see anything.

Despite these major flaws (and they are major), Dendritical achieves something that is surprisingly rare for a Fringe show - it holds the audience’s attention from start to finish, and for that it should be commended.

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The Blurb

ChristyAnn Brown explores the heart of all things in Dendritical, come have a heart-to-heart. An intermedia event in spoken text, movement, and video.

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