In Her Shadows, Traverse Theatre, Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show details
A Blank Canvas & Jabuti Theatre
Debbie Robbins & Rachael Macintyre (co-creators), Cora Bissett (director), Robbie Thomson (projections and visual design), Ewan Macintyre (composer and sound design), Simon Wilkinson (lighting designer), Fred Deb' (aerial choreography consultant), Ethelinda Lashley (dance choreography consultant), Jenny Lindsay (poet: author of 'Today'), Cleo Rose McCabe (costume designer and maker).
Debbie Robbins, Rachael Macintyre
Running time

Aerialists Debbie Robbins and Rachael Macintyre aim to challenge the stigma surrounding depression through a personal portrait of mental illness.

Exploring any ‘issues’ through movement is a tricky business. Translating complex arguments or ideas into a purely physical form often succeeds in creating a mood or evoking emotions, while failing to elucidate the issue in a way that might generate discussion, change opinion or open up debate. The former is more straightforward to accomplish, but the latter is beset with a number of practical difficulties and presents some interesting creative challenges.

With support from a strong creative team led by director Cora Bissett, what might have been creative challenges became creative opportunities. The silks, rope and hoop that are the tools of the aerialist’s trade, dangle in front of a taut white sheet that is stretched around a circular frame. This serves as a screen for film projections and animations and at the same time lends a stylish visual imagery replete with opportunities for metaphor and meaning.

Intermittent voice-overs, including a reading of Jenny Lindsay’s poem ‘Today’ – itself a commentary on the complex experience of her own depression – combine with the visual projections to provide a story and context for the acrobatic movements of Robbins and Macintyre. In this way, what otherwise might have been viewed as merely a series of impressive circus tricks, is elevated to something that has an expressive content and meaning.

While the visual devices do aid the coherence of the action, the story itself remains confusing and confused as it is never made entirely clear whether a troubled and unsupportive relationship with her mother is the cause or the effect of the young woman’s depression. This seemed to be an unnecessary red herring in what was otherwise an interesting consideration of depression.

Runs: 10th October - Lemon Tree, Aberdeen: 13th October - The Beacon Arts Centre, Greenock: 20th October - Platform, Easterhouse: 23rd October - Dundee Rep, Dundee