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Fringe Review: Strike - In the Cube

Fringe Review: Strike - In the Cube

Review by Lyndon Hood

Strike - In the

In the Cube
Michael Fowler Centre
22 Feb, 8pm

Did you know fire is tuneable?

It is if you blow it through various lengths of steel pipe.

This might give you some idea about the inventiveness on display in In the Cube. The fact the piece which included this trick started with the performers playing a quite complicated rhythm using nothing but the flick of cigarette lighters will give you an idea of the level of skill involved.

The 'Cube' (unless the title refers to the box they keep thinking outside of) is actually rectangular – a scaffold frame about the size of a shipping crate, making two approximate cubes with a joining space in the middle – with various percussion instruments attached within reach of the player who are (to begin with) inside. Over the course of the performance other object placed around the stage or brought out specially are also used: pacific drums on the roof of the framework; an arrangement of what turns out to be tubs of water to one side; fire; pipes; a marimba; slinkys; even, at one point, an ordinary drum kit.

The arrangement of the drums automatically generates a choreography – a player may have to range across half a wall in one repeating rhythm. That choreography was enhanced as players moved back and forth, or up and down.

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I feel like I should call this "new percussion" in the same sense that people talk about the new circus. Strike have taken lighting, movement, sound, invention and theatricality and them combined together into something that feels new. Not the least element in the mix is the sheer artistic and physical stunt of their musicianship. They play strange interlocking rhytmns that only seems to make sense in the context of what the others are doing, and build some remarkable pieces of music in an impressive range of styles. They play hard, and fast, and they play long, in a combination of precision and effort that would surely shame a few athletes.

Certainly, from the beginning, the audience was more inclined to whistle and shout their appreciation than I assume is the average for the Michael Fowler Centre. In fact, one guy in the audience was yelling "st-RIIIKE!" at particularly testosterone-filled moments, which didn't seem entirely inappropriate.

It easiest to describe the range of objects put to inventive use – these guys clearly consider anything that makes a noise when you hit it, and a number of things beyond that. The slinkys chattered like a shop full of clocks, and the whoomp of fire was part of an elemental theme. In one austere piece, 'Painting with Breath', the sound was almost entire made by air - the swishing of canes, twirling bullroarers and human breath. Another, 'Water Bass’d', seemed inspired by the idea of dipping various percussion instruments under water while they're being played. The effect of that was not unlike an organised explosion in a laundry.

In a particularly theatrical piece a convivial scene turned into a kind of drinking game: slapping the table, slapping the beer, turning the beer over, passing the beer, clapping... all at ridiculous speed. I dread to think what would happen if someone opened one of the cans afterwards.

But some of the most affecting parts of the show were deviod of gimmicks. 'Triangles', for example, the only solo piece of the show. The piece definitely has nothing to do with the little dingy thing, it refers to the pattern the performer's body makes, playing rapid, surging rhythms on a vertical set of drums.

In the Cube is a testement to the skill and invention of all involved – performer, composers and designers. It was also inspiring. I suspect the number of random objects being hit to see if they make a noise spiked upward in Wellington after that evening.

In the Cube is touring internationally this year and will return to Auckland on September 6, 7 and 8.


In the Cube press release
Strike Website
In the Cube website, programme notes
Fringe 07 website
Scoop Full Coverage: Fringe 07

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