Langasan Theatre have got atmosphere down to a tee. Misa-Lisin is a prime example of theatre’s ability to conjure up emotions, thoughts and feelings without the use of text, speech or even a clear narrative.
Intimacy levels are high in Summerhall’s Old Lab, with the audience kept just close enough to flinch as mud splatters at their feet. Music, cries and sudden movements burst almost from nowhere, and this resulting uncertainty keeps us on our toes. This diverse cast commands attention. Dressed in bright colours and feathers, they stand upstage throughout, surrounded by traditional Taiwanese instruments. Even when not active, their presence is undeniable, their focus unrelenting. It brings a distinct aura of ceremony and a weighty sense of ritual to the space.
Misa-Lisin is a collaboration of aboriginal myths and tales and the dancer’s own lives – a nod to Langasan’s beliefs about how a person’s own experiences and inner feelings are released through the act of performance. Explored through seven scenes, each tale is made distinct from the other. However, with little to no prior knowledge of them it’s difficult to discern where performer’s influence ends and where the myth begins.
In an impressive display of flexibility, one performer snakes her arms in a rhythmic motion, seemingly without effort. She’s entrancing to watch as she acts out a prayer to the spirit of agriculture. In another dramatic sequence a woman in white falls repeatedly to the floor with powerful force, each time covering it with splashes of black and red paint. A later scene involves three performers covered in clay, writhing around on the floor, tension coursing through their bodies. In the spirit of inclusivity, almost a third of the audience have their hands dipped in the clay, as a dancer leaves a trail of mud on her path up the rake towards them. It’s this immersion of the senses that makes this piece so memorable; vivid smells coupled with a generous mist of haze and a continual pounding of drums that stirs the room.
It takes a quick glance through the programme to understand the deep symbolism of this piece and its references to aboriginal culture. Displays of technically challenging dance are also severely limited, with Langasan seemingly opting for storytelling via the loose term of ‘movement’. Nevertheless, they succeed in captivating attention for a full 40 minutes and prove that you can communicate a hell of a lot without words.
Misa-Lisin played at Summerhall as part of Edinburgh Fringe. For more information, see the Langasan website http://langasan.wordpress.com/
Venue: Dance Base, Edinburgh
by Hannah Tookey