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Strange & stunning: Arteries by Ancestry

Review: Arteries by Ancestry, FUGUE –
The Blue Room Theatre, 22 August –
Reviewed by Jenny Scott –

Haydon Wilson & Noah Jimmy. Photo: Matthew Lister.

Arteries by Ancestry is an intense and visceral production exploring a man’s relationships with other men – his father and his lover – in a dystopic science fiction future. These men, played by Noah Jimmy and Haydon Wilson, must navigate intimacy in an authoritarian world of environmental hazards, where health is moralised and sickness seems to be everywhere.

A new work produced by FUGUE and directed by James McMillan, Arteries by Ancestry fuses contemporary dance and experimental theatre to present a bold and arresting display of physicality.

With their matching shaved heads, beige uniforms and discrete plastic fetish wear, Jimmy and Wilson’s performances were aesthetically appealing in a very striking way. Their doubled forms dominated the runway of the stage, sometimes in animalistic conflict with each other, other times in perfect cyborg-esque synchronisation.

While the performers exhibited an impressive display of control over their bodies, the work itself interrogates a kind of emotional control specific to toxic masculinity, illustrated by the domineering father, the aggressive propaganda of authority figures, and the violence of mind games inflicted within a relationship.

Depicting men as lustful, fearful, suffering and struggling (with a hint of apocalyptic S&M), the characters transfix the audience as they leap, flop, pirouette, silently scream, and embrace like lovers. Sensual scenes are interspersed with the telling of nightmarish stories and descriptions of decay, functioning to link the erotic with the horrific. The result is a disquieting and sometimes harrowing experience.

The moments of silent bodily unity between Jimmy and Wilson often felt more moving than the dialogue, which tends towards poetic abstraction and becomes a bit bewildering at times. This was heightened by the frenetic pace of the final acts (during which I have a feeling that many plot points went over my head) but the cumulative effect was one of a powerful emotive experience rather than a conventional narrative journey.

Jimmy and Wilson truly transported the audience to another world, assisted by the terrific soundscapes by Alex & Yell and the chic minimalist set design of Sally Phipps. There are echoes in the work of the 2015 film adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s High Rise, in which things grotesquely fall apart within a stylised society in a similarly unsettling and unstoppable way.

Arteries by Ancestry is a strange and stunning production, recommended to those seeking vivid and immersive experiences from local original theatre.

Runs until 2 September.

Top photo: Noah Jimmy and Haydon Wilson. Photo: Marshall Stay.

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