Handling the Pandemic at the Manchester International Festival

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by Gregory Maqoma The quite varied choreography for these dancers (plus Thulani Chauke on the two big screens on the sides of the stage – a nod to the travel problems during Covid-19) and Garratt’s ventriloquist skills were the best parts of the erratic show. one set piece to another.

The strongest performance piece was surprisingly a movie installation. In the vast Manchester Center (a former train station), flashing lights and a humming, breathtaking electronic surround sound (by Aaron and Bryce Dessner and Jon Hopkins) pierced the cavernous void before “” began.All This Unreal TimeDirected by Aoife McArdle, a collaboration between actor Cillian Murphy (“Peaky Blinders”) and writer Max Porter.

Murphy and Porter had worked together before. Stage adaptation of “Sorrow is a Feathered Thing”,” and as in that work, the text here is a strange and wonderful combination of narrative, reflection, monologue, myth, and poetry. “I’ve come to apologize” is displayed on the screen before I see Murphy go through a dark, dripping tunnel.

Murphy’s character talks about his shame, anger, and fears as he confesses his failures as a man as he walks through dilapidated streets and passes fluorescent cafes all night long (“Brotherhood, now that’s enviable”). “I’m sorry for taking, taking, taking, taking and taking, and for endlessly enriching myself and leaving deep scars on the skin of the world,” he says towards the end as he passes through. a field outside the city, the sky is lightened, the trains passing, the flock of birds.

McArdle keeps the tempo tight, focusing on Murphy, his cutscenes are flying and pointed. The sound, seen on a huge screen, rises and falls like nature’s own echoes with the musical rhythms of the text “All of This Unreal Time”. watch online) – like all fine art – is a gripping, truly immersive journey that keeps the possibilities of meaning wide open.

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