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Death at their finger tips

GORDON PARSONS falls head over heels with a production that dazzles with its nanotechnology

Cold Blood
Kings Theatre
Edinburgh International Festival

Is it theatre, film, ballet or do we have to coin a new term?

Whatever we call it, Cold Blood will never allow audiences to look at their hands in the same way again.

Film-maker Jaco Van Dormael and choreographer Michele Anne De Mey have collaborated to produce what must rate as one of the highlights of Edinburgh’s artfest.

The stage is overhung by a large cinema screen. Below in semi-darkness the actors, dancers — or are they technicians? — play out and film a kind of elegy, exploring and depicting death. As the hypnotic voice of the commentator explains, there are as many kinds of death as there are lives.

On the screen we see hands and fingers dance out mini-stories of death in its various guises.

This nanotechnology seduces our imaginations, transforming these digital performers into characters.

Just as puppets amazingly can move or amuse us more than live actors, then these delicate detached hands can seem more depressed, more loving, more comical and simply more alive than their owners.

The programme explains that the dancers below can use their “beautifully expressive hands” as in a sense they are on stage with them.

So we have an Astaire-Rogers tap-dancing couple, a dramatic Bolero and a synchronised swimming aquamusical revisiting the Esther Williams Hollywood spectaculars.

The seven deaths, each catching the final moments of a life, are treated to a cheekily witty commentary. We are told that the dietary victim died from an acute allergy to mashed potatoes while the road accident was caused by the inebriated driver failing to close the car windows in a car wash.

In fact, startlingly inventive, exciting and amusing as Cold Blood is, it captures something of “the frailty of human relationships” and life itself as powerfully as any great drama.

The standing ovation was well deserved.


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