at Summerhall, Monday 12th August 2013
*Originally written for Culture Wars*
The thought of sitting in a theatre watching a man balancing stones doesn’t exactly sound like a thrilling one. Bizarrely, this is the crux of Nick Steur’s Freeze!, which does far more intellectually than its premise would suggest. For though watching the act of creation is tense and dramatic in itself, its the accompanying text which makes this piece really interesting, interrogating the place of language and the making of art.
In the Demonstration Room at Summerhall, five polished mirrored cubes sit in a semi-circle. On top of Steur’s head is a small speaker, which he pushes to activate. The actual act of balancing doesn’t begin for a good five minutes, during which time we get a fascinating monologue which then continues throughout.
There’s something incredibly odd about experiencing a mute man talking to an audience through a disembodied voice. The reason he’s made this choice, apparently, is so he has “something to talk about” and because he doesn’t “want to bore the language thinkers” in the audience. It means that we get a running commentary, and though it could be interpreted as patronising the audience by analysing what is happening, it in fact makes interesting points about aesthetics and memory. The phrase “I like complex simplicity” seems to sum up the show.
What’s so interesting about the rocks is that this is a real act (not a representation) which contains within it a genuine drama. The first time he manages to achieve a tower, it’s kind of impossible to believe it’s not an illusion, and there’s a few moments of disbelief. We are complicit in this act, too, remaining far more quiet and still than we would in other shows for fear of knocking them.over with a badly timed fidget.
Like L’Apres-midi d’un Foehn, Freeze! makes beauty out of banality. They both make you feel a strange other-worldly calm by putting fragility and solidity in opposition with one another. And then, just when you think order is achieved, chaos and destruction arrive, leaving the remnants of what was beautiful scattered on the floor.