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  • Kate Gaul

Insomniac's Fable - Edinburgh Fringe 2023

“Insomniac's Fable” communicates its story through strong visuals and two highly skilled performers over 45 minutes. It is performed by circus artist Sakari Männistö and Scottish dancer Erin O’Toole for Agit Cirk – a multidisciplinary company based in Finland.

“Insomniac’s Fable” is an intimate contemporary circus and dance piece about the realities- or unrealities - of love. Creative Sakari Männistö has said “The genesis of this project was our interest in making a narrative piece combining dance, circus, and visual art, specifically the art of print making, and the techniques involved in woodcuts. We saw the relationship between a carved wooden block and the paper upon which it impresses a mirror image as a metaphor for two people’s perception of one event. Around these ideas, we constructed a story that is somewhere between the films “Vertigo” and “Inception”, sources that toy with layers of reality and the theme of love versus obsession.”

Choreographer Emma Lister adds, “I’m very interested in dreams, in the literal sense of the journeys we take when asleep and the more conscious daydream: a future, a wish, a revenge or an idealised person. Here the dream is of the ‘perfect girl’. One who will fulfil all your desires, after them life will come together.”

That’s what the blurbs tells us. For me it is charmingly non-narrative immersion blending dance, superb woodcut video animations (Angela Annesley), resonant music, graphic costumes, and juggling. The stage is set with a wafting white curtain. It takes projections, creates some visual niceties when artists are on the other side of it – but the best thing about the curtain is that is moves up and down stage and doesn’t always sit parallel to the audience. This little piece of theatrical trickery warmed my heart – so simple and all manipulated by the onstage cast, and yet wholly whimsical. Especially as the wafts are sometimes aided but an eclectic fan. Magic! There is an evocative eclectic soundtrack which works its own magic on the listener in the cocoon of the theatre.

The dreamlike world is one of images and emotion. A beautiful sequence with a red ribbon and the moments when the performers are working inside the animation is beyond fabulous. Striking tableau also feature. The dancer atop a stepladder was breath-taking. Each moment is created and then disappears with the logic of a dream. Bookended as the piece is with the setting and striking of a ghost light begins and ends our journey. The work is elegant, redolent with space to write our own story and meaning, and a surreal early morning show that may just convince you that you are still inside your dreams.

Kate Gaul


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