Dreams of the Small Gods (5 stars)

Dreams of the Small Gods

credit: Paul Maguire

Manipulate 2020: Circus and myth collide in an evocative masterpiece of physical theatre

A gorgeous exploration of the delicacy and potency of becoming – the physical, the experiential, and the spiritual – Dreams of the Small Gods is a simultaneously intimate and explosively cosmic hour. As creator and performer Zinnia Oberski first appears hanging on a trapeze in the semi-darkness, there is complete silence until she begins to gradually test out her body, flexing her fingers on the ropes with deliberation before at last swinging up and onto the ground, dancing, crawling, and slithering in complete abandon.

It's a performance of the human form at its most corporeal and visceral, given extra complexity by the descent of a horned animal skull from the ceiling about halfway through, which – caesura-like – elevates the proceedings from the primal to the mythic.

An enthralling visual spectacle, Dreams of the Small Gods is made all the more impressive given its minimal trappings. Oberski is the only presence on stage and the entire show hinges on her physical prowess, which is utterly remarkable. Both on ground and in the air her movements are concurrently loose and desperately controlled, displaying a real mastery of circus performance. Sensual, kinetic and tactile, Dreams of Small Gods is a beautiful consideration of the power of folklore and an absolutely mesmerising intervention into the genre of physical theatre.

Reviewed at Summerhall, Edinburgh.

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