REVIEW: Palmyra, Pulse Festival, New Wolsey Theatre ✭✭✭✭✭

Paul T Davies reviews Palmyra presented as part of the Paulse Festival at the New Wolsey Theatre

Palmyra Pulse Festival 2018

Palmyra.
Pulse Festival at the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich.
9 June 2018
5 Stars
Pulse Festival Information

The ancient city of Palmyra was one of the best preserved in the world. Until 2015, when ISIS gained control of the city, destroyed its temples, (Bel and Baalshamin), looted its graves and used its amphitheatre to stage executions. A year later, after ISIS had been removed from the city, reconstruction gradually began, even though history and culture had been erased.

Bertrand Lesca and Nasi Voutsas have created a beautiful, violent, tense and disturbing piece about destruction, revenge, barbarism and civilisation. They do it with smashed china, gradually filling the stage with rubble and dust until it begins to be cleared away. It begins with the men creating a dance on skates, gradually becoming more violent and aggressive. Lesca bullies Voutsas, trying to get the audience on his side, a hammer becoming a disturbing threat, even when removed from the space by an audience member. Bertrand just comes back with a bigger hammer. Throughout it all you are aware that this is how children behave. This is how boys behave. This is how men behave.

The powerful metaphors, carefully chosen, add layers of meaning to the stated illustration of the destruction of Palmyra. The duo create every toxic and destructive relationship you or your friends and family may have been involved in. When Lesca is evicted from the space, Voutsas clears the rubble and begins his own dance, offering a glimmer of hope for future reconstruction. I found this a powerful piece, unafraid to stretch the tension as far as possible, yet avoiding a didactic nature. Excellent.

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