Described as a ‘physical concert’, Micro is a gig that looks at itself in the mirror and laughs. Kitted out with amps, electrical guitars, a bass, keyboards, a drum kit, a sprawling nest of wires and fur lined walls, the tiny space of the Gate Theatre is thick with anticipation. I am waiting for the sound. Sound which will somehow exude from the statuesque instruments. Sound which will be as great as the space is small.
When the four multi-tasking musicians appear and they haphazardly begin to play, the sound is dense, rhythmical, racing and enchanting. It is indeed a concert, a rich and varied one and I am satisfied.
This show is not just about the music but also how the music is created – the physical part of the ‘physical concert’. However, it is here that the screws of the performance become loose.
So much happens. The musicians pick their way around the stage like rock and roll clowns. At first they are hidden and the microphones and amps have lives of their own; then they appear and adorn themselves with instruments so that they become like lolloping creatures – guitars with legs, drums with arms; then they play each other as if they were instruments themselves – responding like robots with their voices; then they are again human and crazed, making music from physical compulsions. Sometimes the scenes derive from the music and sometimes the music derives from scenes. There are arrangements, characters, physical tangles, exchanges and relationships.
Some of this is captivating and very funny. Inevitably, some of it is not. There is such richness in the creation of the music alone that often the movement and humour seem like token gestures. The theatrical characterisation and studied physicality can be strong but it is short-lived, erratic and overshadowed by the music. It is the all-involving task of playing music which proves to be the source of the most exciting moments of physical performance – the singer’s paralysing tension, the drummer’s convulsions, the tenderness between the musicians as they share instruments, the fixed gazes of concentration. There is no need for the extra bits that make the set fragmented and leave me distracted. Micro is like a pick and mix of good and pointless. It’s just a shame we have to try everything.
Micro by Pierre Rigal, 7 April – 8 May 2010 Gate Theatre