After interviewing creator James McGuire the day before, I had an inkling of what to expect from MUST’s most recent creative performance. I was prepared to be challenged and confronted, anticipating a dark, visceral and bold performance piece. I wasn’t disappointed. ‘In the Fires, We Weep’ is an entirely original and ambitious reimagining of Dante’s epic tale of Hell.
A good show should be able to draw you in entirely and make you forget about any external markers of time and space – where you are sitting, how many minutes has passed, the world outside – they should all but disappear. The audience and the performers are complicit in transforming the stage into a wholly vivid and palpable world.
When the performance began, an eerie, sonorous melody encased the room; the performers stood in the centre of the stage, silent and unmoving. Their bodies were stark and bare, skin painted completely white; taking on a translucent, otherworldly quality. The stage was empty and devoid of any adornments or superfluous flourishes – the focus was simply on the performers, and their bodies in space.
‘In the Fires, We Weep’ presents an unrelenting, violent and engrossing portrayal of hell. Two-faced figures, mummified bodies, aerial demons in flight come into being, contorting across a smoky enclave of green and red hues. The choreography illustrates the malleability of the human form, bringing out a hidden rawness within the dancers, revealing a primordial, ferocious, and essential self. The performers are at once ethereal yet earthy, in a constant state of transfiguration and flux, taking on multiple facets of the demon spirits they embody. The choreography steadily builds up in momentum and intensity; the show finishes in a flash, at the height of its crescendo.
Although the piece is unflinching in its depiction of dark subject material, it achieves a level of transcendence and stark beauty. The image that struck me the most (of which there were many) was that of a single figure on stage, emitting a silent scream, seemingly from the depths of an unceasing torment. It was a dramatic depiction of a soul in anguish. To me it seemed to echo a line from T.S Elliot’s The Cocktail Party:
“Hell is alone, the other figures in it
Merely projections. There is nothing to escape from
And nothing to escape to. One is always alone.”
You needn’t be familiar with Dante’s ‘Inferno’ to enjoy ‘In the Fires, We Weep’. Movement has a vocabulary and language of its own, and the cast needs to be commended for their powerful, animated performance. The show was the full realization of an intrepid imagination alongside a great deal of care and labour, so I strongly urge you all to see the show, lest you miss out on a completely unique and innovative dance performance.