Out of this World (3 stars)

Out of this World

credit: Jane Hobson

Full blown aerial spectacle fragments tragedy into episodic drama

Mark Murphy's latest adventure in performance takes personal tragedy, filters it through contemporary ideas about liminal consciousness and explodes it into an aerial spectacle that is more technically impressive than emotionally striking. A singer-songwriter, Ellen finds herself inhabiting a surreal series of events: she prepares herself for a concert, for travel, for a life of happiness with her new husband, only to find that she is inconvenienced by a dream-like logic. Gradually, she – and the audience – become aware of her situation and she battles her way back to life and coherence.

Murphy's use of aerial display is superb: the heroine's strange circumstances are expressed in set-pieces that dangle her from the rafters, see hospital walkers walk up walls and waiting rooms explode across the stage and are suspended in mid-air. The repetition of scenes – as when she recollects with her husband the kindling of their love – and the video projections that immerse the scenery in digital frames and abstracted galaxies – create an uncanny universe, in which Ellen struggles to find meaning.

Unfortunately, the spectacle is too grand for the content: there is a simple and undeveloped message about grieving, but the plot is prosaic and never attains the depth that the incredible scenography and aerial action promise. Even the fragmented time of Out of This World is a trick to complicate the revelation of the plot, while hinting at the complicated narratives weaved by the subconscious as it attempts to explain an unpalatable truth.

Out of this World does take on major themes – the vulnerability of life and love, the inevitability of death, the nature of consciousness and the power of desire – yet resolves into a simplistic finale. There is magic in the visuals, but too little energy in the story.

Seen at Macrobert, Stirling. Now touring across the UK.

Mark Murphy's V-TOL: Out Of This World

The story of one woman's fight for survival as she descends into a medically induced coma, told through aerial choreography and special effects.