Traces

Traces is a theatre show with no obviously clear-cut beginning or end; if there’s a start at all, it might be when the two principal performers – Marko Werner and Michael Lurse of Berlin-based Helios Theater – walk among the waiting audience of children and adults outside the studio space, gaining our attention with the chime of a bell, then silently interacting with some of the younger children – making small patterns in sand on the table-tops, dropping a trail of small scraps of paper, or drawing chalk outlines round people’s feet on the floor. Yet, before that, one of the team had gone round recording some of the children saying their own names – sound samples which are later incorporated into the piece – so was that also part of Traces?

It’s when the pair start pouring fine sand on the floor, and begin highlighting – and then adding to – the patterns they see, that things get particularly interesting

Following the arrows we see drawn on the floor, we’re brought into the performance space, where a sometimes literally fascinating – if at times mildly peculiar – theatrical experience unfolds. Werner and Lurse (with constant, albeit generally low-key, musical accompaniment from Roman D Metzner, on the worn remnants of a piano) begin by scattering a trail of cut up papers on the floor, and then appear to start searching for commonalities, patterns and connections, drawing lines and circles between them.

It’s when the pair start pouring fine sand on the floor, and begin highlighting – and then adding to – the patterns they see, that things get particularly interesting; here, Traces becomes much more obviously about the many ways in which we leave a mark in the world, as Werner and Lurse scribble out the sampled children’s names both in the sand and within a deliberately poorly drawn outline of a human figure against the rear wall. There’s something quite instinctual about the whole process, even when it is shaded through the pair’s changing role-games as Werner and Lurse exchange mimed characters just as quickly as they swap numerous hats. Finally, as they fully begin to interact with the audience, the pair invite some of the children to join in the fun; hesitantly at first, a few of the youngest do, making patterns as best they can in the sand and generally bringing the “official” performance to a close.

This is a charming, inventive, even haunting example of physical theatre – and, like much of the Imaginate festival, ideal as a young child’s first theatrical experience. But it also has something for the grown-ups too, not least as those patterns in the sand continue to be made even as some of us begin to leave the building.

Reviews by Paul F Cockburn

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Performances

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The Blurb

Traces takes you on a very special and moving journey, with live musical accompaniment featuring the sounds of the echo of our voices. As sand and chalk is blown all around them, two performers create shifting patterns on stage. (Age: 2-5 years)

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