Through the beauty of live art, music and movement Louise Ahl’s Holy Smoke brings the audience into a spiritual world of shamanism. The live music was the most powerful medium. Bringing a sense of earthiness. A gateway into the difficult concept of belief.
When all four actors lined up, rhythmically stomping and clapping, it was fascinatingly simplistic. Their calmness effectively achieved a ritualistic feel. Whether intended or not, the echoes of this sound pervaded the hall of the Trinity Centre. It was hard to ignore the religious connotations in a Church space. It was incredibly powerful. The stained glass windows of the Trinity Centre arches over the performance, reinforcing the content of the piece.
Unfortunately, at times, the belief the production required was hard to maintain. Occasionally, the performers travelled into people’s personal space. They dangled instruments in people’s faces and swung large gongs our way. For me, these instances were uncomfortable, and unusual to me since I usually enjoy immersive theatre. I began to question why this particular piece didn’t successfully engage me, and immerse me into its world of spirituality.
I firstly thought my reluctance was due to the productions fragmented structure. This involved the performers entering and exiting the stage to get props and costumes. Although this may have been intended, to divide the healing process taking part in the play, if it had been more fluid, it would have been more engaging.
I then questioned my own personal interests as I am quite sceptical of spiritual healings and shamanism as a concept. I wondered whether a passion for and comprehension of the subject is necessary to be fully immersed by the piece. For Holy Smoke, I would say yes.
Holy Smoke’s specific subject matter, in which belief is at the forefront, requires a willingness to do so. If I shared the belief integral to shamanism, I would have enjoyed the productions artistic portrayal more.
I was still able to appreciate the mystical and magical feel Holy Smoke generated. The unusual yet beautiful aesthetics could not be faulted and the performers excelled in all mediums, live art, music and movement.