Edinburgh Fringe Review: Missing – CoisCéim Dance Theatre

Missing/CoisCéim Dance Theatre

What really happens to the the thousands of people who go missing every year? From the ones who are given little more than a missing persons ad in a local paper to those whose faces are plastered on the evening news. And what about their families, friends, colleagues? What happens to those left behind? Could we imagine a life of not knowing?

In a remarkably poignant two hander by Emma O’Kane and Tom Pritchard, David Bolger and CoisCéim Dance Theatre posit many of these questions. Numerous chairs are strewn across the space in a darkly symbolic nod to the many missing. Tossed, knocked over and discarded, they lie empty for the most part; except for fleeting moments of contact when they are used to support O’Kane and Pritchard’s delicate lifts and jumps. 

Pritchard is exceptional, bouncing gently around the space, creating beautiful lines that his tall, lean figure only serves to emphasise. In contrast, O’Kane’s movements flow easily as she collapses over and rotates her limbs to create subtle circular images. Their disjointed, parallel performances reek of something lost – a missing connection, a lack of community or support. Yet it is when the two come together that this production is at its most powerful. Rattling off a list of descriptions of people they have seen that day – a woman with a Zoo lanyard walking along Grassmarket, a man in Bristo Square – adds a familiarity to the piece that is unavoidably gutting: it could happen to any of us, anywhere. In this chilling moment, CoisCéim have brought this issue directly into our frame of reference and infused their work with a weighty importance as a result. 

Set to an entrancing score by Ivan Birthistle and Vincent Doherty, and sublimely lit by Eamon Fox, makes the bleak statistics that litter the piece all the more haunting. It is an incredibly nuanced work that Bolger has given a strange sense of structure to; through the fragmented solo performances, there is a clear and undeniable wrenching loss, whilst their coupled moments reveal a glimpse of hope through the cracks of such heartache. Missing is excellent and a dance work so relevant, sensitive and captivating on such a pivotal and often neglected topic is long overdue. It captures the essence of loss without latching onto headline names – so tempting for a social work – yet chooses to evoke an anonymity that makes it all the more affecting.

Venue: Dance Base

by Hannah Tookey