BIAF 19: Lady Magma

  Photo: Luca Truffarelli

As fiery, as deadly and as robust as the molten rock it takes its name from, Oona Doherty's Lady Magma is perhaps among the most transcendent work in a year of transcendent works in theatre and dance. Now, I'm trying to resist the temptation to use words like spicy, lest that be too obvious an attempt to curry favour with my readers, but this truly is relishing and ravishing - emanating the sort of heat that sparks off an inferno of ideas blazing with energy.

Subtitled The Birth Of The Cult, Lady Magma presents just that - and also, the life and death of a cult, one that in this case revolves around and celebrates female strength while attaining universally thematic meaning. The meaning of a newfound belief which paves the way for a developing livelihood that crumbles exhaustively.

Performers Olivia Ancona, Justine Cooper, Janie Doherty, Aoife McAtamney and Solene Weinachter push themselves mentally and physically to mark, in my view, how far any phenomenon can go before a point of no return. How long dedication to movement and composure, however impressive, can last before everything spirals - and tellingly, the Persian rug danced upon is in a twisted pattern - into a trail of repetition. When does desire become intimacy? When does intimacy become love? And when does it all come crashing down around our eyes and ears, or worse, will it ever come crashing down?

The thrust is inescapable. The energy unavoidable. The music and design, courtesy of David Holmes and Ciaran Bagnall, is irresistible. Individually each human and component is a thing of beauty that does not necessarily unite into a joy forever, rather, something that sends us round and round a metaphorical bend with a lingering chant to bleach our brains. In short, as its title hints, Lady Magma is dance as fire – and as everyone knows, if you play with fire you're likely to get burnt.

Simon Fallaha

Lady Magma ran at The MAC from October 31 to November 2 as part of the Belfast International Arts Festival 2019.