In our fast-paced and demanding consumer culture, a production that takes time to examine and appreciate the joys and sorrows found in everyday life can be a real gem. Using poetic prose, beautifully intricate dance and a striking soundscape, Comuna de Pedra have worked hard to achieve just that.
Something Between Nothing And Everything presents the ordinary in a most extraordinary way. It is beautiful to watch and moving to experience.
A medley of Taiwanese and English pop music plays softly as we enter the space; I particularly enjoy the presence of a small TV screen in the corner that plays CCTV footage of the venue front. Far from isolating ourselves within a protective sphere – as many productions do when encouraging audiences to suspend their disbelief – this screen serves as a reminder that, outside of the theatre, life always continues.
As well as this addition to the set, one particularly noticeable and unusual difference is the use of sparse house lighting, exposing the four performers in their frozen poses around the space. This creates a surprising difference to the atmosphere; sitting in the audience suddenly feels oddly vulnerable, echoing the feeling of an art gallery rather than an auditorium. All performers are incredibly disciplined in their command of every action; the control over their slow motion in the opening section barely registers as movement, allowing the piece to begin almost imperceptibly.
The monotony of daily routine is perfectly captured in one sequence by the percussion of plodding feet, the hypnotic and repetitive dance movements and the staccato string accompaniment. Using a blow-by-blow narrative, including every mundane event and the precise time at which they occurred, illuminates the beauty to be found in the banality of detail.
But I cannot ignore the struggle with the use of the screen, which made it difficult to read the half-projected subtitles and therefore follow the dialogue within certain scenes. The distancing effect was still mostly achieved, which brought an intellectual beauty to the production. Speaking Cantonese in one corner, projecting English upon the screen in another and performing a slow, fluid dance of love and loss in the centre effectively deconstructs the raw emotions of grief and pain, while also removing sentimental ties to the performers.
Something Between Nothing And Everything presents the ordinary in a most extraordinary way. It is beautiful to watch and moving to experience. With more care over the finer details – the off-centre projections really detracted from certain scenes – this will be a wonderful piece of theatre.