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  • Chris O'Rourke

Tiger Dublin Fringe 2016: Black Pitch Pitch Black

Black Pitch, Pitch Black by Aerial Cirque

Photo credit: Aisling Ni Cheallaigh


Different sides of the same story clash in Black Pitch Pitch Black

Aerial Cirque’s ‘Black Pitch Pitch Black’s,’ central metaphor is cleverly derived from a pitch drop experiment. Considered by some to be one of the longest scientific experiments in the world, it measures the flow and viscosity of pitch, such as bitumen or asphalt, by allowing a drop to form and fall into a jar, usually over an eight to twelve-year period. Though some experiments date back to the early twentieth century, the first falling drop was only recorded on camera in Trinity College in July 2013. This prolonged sense of waiting is not for the faint of heart, nor, at times is 'Black Pitch Pitch Black' which also shares a prolonged sense of waiting. Forcing it Sisyphus metaphor a little too obviously in its opening section, 'Black Pitch Pitch Black’ takes its time to come alive. Yet when it does its tale of a trapped woman, who can check out any time but can never leave, has an understated power that captivates entirely.

Performed on a large, steel scaffold structure, ‘Black Pitch Pitch Black’ sees a chair, a bed, a gramophone, test tubes, science jars and a pitch drop experiment all suspended above ground amidst a canopy of black ropes and silk. Aerial artist, Ria Murphy, dressed in an old world petticoat, executes a repeated pattern, three times in succession. Moving Tarzan like in slow motion across the vines, she moves through the space always beginning in the chair, always ending in the chair. In between she sleeps, administers perfume and conducts her experiments. At times it feels like being compelled to watch someone play a video game without a save option, repeating the same level with the same moves over and over, knowing exactly what's going to happen each time. Even acknowledging the limited range of movements available to aerial artists, this was the least satisfying section, not helped by sight lines being often hampered by the ropes and silks. Indeed, ‘Black Pitch Pitch Black's’ opening section looks untidy in places, with body and objects frequently colliding in the cluttered space and feet appearing to snag on ropes and silks.

As the repetition begins to wear a little thin, the arrival of the crickets ensures things become much more interesting. A more frenzied pace kicks in as the narrative begins to go places, and Murphy’s aerial dynamics become supremely interesting and wonderfully executed. With its new found speed and purpose something shifts, seen in the first engagement with the crickets in which Murphy’s descent and landing are exquisitely executed, for those who can see it. When the end comes, Murphy has transformed ‘Black Pitch Pitch Black’ from a potentially tedious performance into something quite memorable.

There’s something of Beckett’s “I can’t go on. I go on,” about Aerial Cirque’s ‘Black Pitch Pitch Black.’ A production which, when it’s good, is very, very good indeed.

‘Black Pitch Pitch Black’ by Aerial Cirque runs at 10 Exchequer Street as part of The Tiger Dublin Fringe until September 24th

For more information, visit Tiger Dublin Fringe

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