Review: A Lost Art (Basic Space) ***

Letters capture a unique and single moment in time. A Lost Art takes these snapshots from the past and breathes new life into them. But not in speech: through dance. What results is vibrant and vibrant storytelling, but one which has lacks the intimacy of its inspiration.

From dance based theatre company Palms Down, A Lost Art invites audiences to rediscover the art of writing. Escape into an immersive world and let your soundtrack be your guide. Read the letters left behind by writers, and see how these play out as three dancers take on the role of readers.

Alostart

Before arriving, audiences are encouraged to bring a pen. On arrival, you see why. Countless letters adorn this derelict house: pinned to walls, hanging from ceilings, there’s a beauty in the simplicity of the design. While reading these, you are also encouraged to leave your own letter if you too are inspired.

As you arrive, you are given a set of headphones and MP3 player: these allow you to hear the letters being narrated and music to which the actors dance. This should feel a highly individual experience, with each audience member essentially cut off from each other in their own little world. Instead, I found myself asking my friend: ‘Are you hearing this song?’ While we may be walking round the house individually, all twenty audience members are actually having the same experience. We are all listening to the same letter being read, watching the same dancer and set to the same song. I would have loved to see this staged with audiences watching the same dancer, but each hearing a different story or song.

Each letter is individual, revealing a different facet of love and loss. The accompanying music is appropriately sombre or happy, though these are hardly necessary. So expressive are the dancers that you almost ignore everything else. Each movement considered, each moment complete, all three are born storytellers.

While reminding audiences of the beauty of letter writing, Palms Down simultaneously removes it. Writing a letter is an individual experience, yet this experience at its core is group.

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