Hope Hunt and the Ascension into Lazarus

A double-bill of extraordinary power and originality, Hope Hunt & The Ascension into Lazarus performed by Belfast-based Oona Doherty, gets beneath the hard exterior of disaffected youths to the humanity beneath in a show which achieves the hard act of being visceral and in-yer-face but also tender.

This is a show not to be missed.

Starting in the street, as Oona rolls out of a car and hits the cobblestones with a thwack: a dramatic, shocking start as she brings the street with her into the auditorium. A sense of humour bursts out here and there and she astounds with her flexibility and quicksilver lightness as a dancer.

I say ‘she’ but she has an androgynous look; the baggy clothes hinting at prison outfits, the loose walk, swinging arms and curled lip – all the swagger of street dance as she performs with fragments of hip hop, popping and locking to East 17 amongst other ‘dirty’ boy bands, interspersed with broken words or fragments of speech, some in German and French, referencing Kurt Schwitters, the Dadaist German artist famed for his collages (Oona, too is an artist who makes collages). This fragmented approach brilliantly expresses inarticulacy and a desperate search for self-expression, a rebellion against being thrown on the rubbish heap. Tellingly, the only set is a rubbish heap of fast-food cans and detritus in the corner.

Hope Hunt is not a rant, more a hunt for hope. Even more so The Ascension into Lazarus grows naturally out of it as a companion piece, continuing the theme of hope but conjuring a deeply moving elegiac mood. Oona lies on the floor, her face white and withdrawn as a heroin addict’s, she is dressed in white as if it is a shroud, like Lazarus whom Christ brought back from the dead. To the heart-rending High Renaissance choral work Miserere ('Have Mercy') by Allegri, with its impossibly high C then falling notes echoing from the heights of a great cathedral, mixed with the sound of shattered plates and angry voices, Oona rises and is spotlit at the back of the stage as if ascending into heaven suggesting that even in the bleakest of lives there is redemption. This is a show not to be missed.

Reviews by Stephanie Green

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The Blurb

Oona Doherty performs thumping sweaty dance-theatre. A physical expression of the place between the flesh and the soul. Heaving lungs shout in the dark as Doherty takes you through a dirty Europe, from the dark and into the light like a bursting lightbulb. Hope Hunt and the Ascension into Lazarus is an attempt to raise the male disadvantaged stereotype up into a bright white limbo. To make the smicks, the spides, the hoods, the neds, into the birds of a concrete paradise. This is a Hunt for Hope. Fade to white. Aerowaves, 2017.