At some point in your life you may have found yourself wondering what might happen if four international avant-garde theatre actors and producers came together to create a piece of performance art exploring the peculiarities and mysteries of the human condition. If so, then the Llanarth Group’s newest production, The Echo Chamber might satisfy your curiosity. Weaving together music, text and sound, the group’s latest offering claims to explore the relationship between our physical bodies and that immeasurable ‘something else’ that has been the domain of philosophers for centuries.
But if the Llanarth Group’s reputation is anything to go by, this will not be merely idle musing. Following on the heels of Told by the Wind, a production whose success saw it tour between Chicago, Poland, Berlin and Portugal, The Echo Chamber places two men in separate rooms and incites them to ‘dance the other’s absence’, as Chicago Time Out put it. The piece is a labyrinth, reverberating with the echoes of memory, in which inner landscapes sound and resound.
‘This is all very well,’ you may say, ‘but what does that mean?’ I don’t know, but if any production team can pull off such a feat, it is the one behind The Echo Chamber. This quadrumvirate of introspection is made up of playwright Kate O’Reilly, whose Ted Hughes Award-winning piece Persians was recently staged on an army base in the Brecon Beacons, and Phillip Zarrilli, internationally renowned director, actor, actor-trainer, and author (and founder of the Llanarth Group), as well as director and artist Peader Kirk of European avant-garde production company Mkultra and actor Ian Morgan, in his first performance in Wales since returning from seven years working in Poland. If the clear wealth of this team’s experience at the cutting edge of performance art doesn’t convinced you of the calibre of the performance, then perhaps a glance at the glowing reviews will. The Guardian described it as ‘hypnotic…a haunting, painterly beauty…[with] the astringent purity of a haiku poem…[an] intense meditation in movement’, while British Theatre Guide calls it ‘easily the most hypnotic piece of theatre I have experienced.’ The Echo Chamber premieres in Cardiff’s Chapter Arts Centre on 27-28 January and plays again on 2-4 February.