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A Symphony of Sloths - Review by Don Franks

"A Symphony of Sloths" by Marika Pratley

A tricky title,  what should we expect?

I was curious to see what might be theatrically and musically made of the fun figure which is, I venture, the most common human perception of the sloth animal.

A slow burning slower than heartbeat tempo six piece musical ensemble took us on the sloth tour.

In the darkness of Puppies bar, the players, costumed in sloth suggesting garb, held deathly still poses until showtime.

Very gradually, electronic noise hovering over two and a half tones accompanied the gradual awakening of the sloths. 

Almost imperceptably, sloth driven violin bows over wine glasses segued a raising musical intensity. 

Seamless transition took the musicians from the floor to the stage proper, where gamalan type instruments took up three and four note riffs, all the while keeping the original tempo. Selected notes kept mostly within major and pentatonic boundaries, tension and musical interest was maintained by artistic phrasing and tightly disciplined ensemble work. 

The performance swelled to a high point where mouthed vocalisation took the place of instrumental sounds, rising from a tentative mewing to a seething of sloth conversation. 

Without pause, an instrumental decrescendo took over and us back home and the lights came back on. 

I was pleased to experience this production. The work invited the audience into a different inhabitation, a meditative space such as creatures foreign to most of us - sloths - might occupy. The night I attended the better part of one hundred were in the audience and the unerringly attentive response of that whole number underlined the worth of the show.

The composer's programe notes say the symphony of sloths offers  " practical inspiration for how to survive under capitalism"

To the extent that I was moved to slow down and accept and enjoy the invitation to enter a strangers culture for an hour, the claim rings true.  

This show requiring little in the way of set and lighting could be easily toured, I hope that takes place, so folks out of Wellington can have their perception of life tweaked a little by the sloth experience.


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