Atlantis Banal: Beneath the Surface
- Kelly Apter
- 17 October 2019
Designer and theatre maker's latest offering is a colourful and delightfully delivered production
If you could open Shona Reppe's head and peer inside her imagination, you'd discover a technicolour world of wonder and merriment. How she comes up with the designs and notions for her shows is anyone's guess, but thank goodness she does.
This latest offering is filled with Reppe's trademark props and costumes – the kind you can't take your eyes off, as you try to listen to the equally bizarre words coming out of her mouth. Atlantis Banal, we discover, is a ground-breaking visual artist with a back catalogue of curiously brilliant works. She's not real, of course, but by the end of the show you wish she was.
Atlantis is one of four people we meet upon entering the 'Pop-up Gallery', along with the exhibition curator and two gallery attendants (all played by Reppe herself, apart from Graham the much-maligned side-kick). Each character comes with their own look, costume-wise (many of which are works of art in themselves), and a curly wig of varying hues. As always with Reppe, the attention to detail is fabulous, the wit sharp and the delivery delightful.
With all visual art, the setting is often as important as the content, and the 'Pop-up Gallery' doesn't disappoint. A pristine white floor is framed by benches from which we watch the exhibition grow – flanked at either end by video screens showing a series of short films capturing Atlantis Banal's highly successful career.
For the adults in the audience, the pretentiousness is hilarious, with touches and nuances instantly recognisable from the contemporary art world. Yet the show is also based on a true love of visual art and all its myriad possibilities. For younger viewers, pleasure comes not from recognition but just pure enjoyment at the colours, upcycled creations and Reppe's slightly bonkers but always accessible delivery.
Most of all, it makes you want to go home and create an exhibition of your own from some 'found fashion'.
Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Thu 21–Sat 23 Nov.