Pros: Powerful physical performance
Cons: The relentlessly punishing choreography feels pointless at times
On a thrust stage, performer Markéta Vacovská pushes herself to her physical limits as she explores the intensity of a boxer’s experience. Whirring limbs become a blur as she punches to the point of exhaustion. At other times she appears to be receiving the blows, shaking her head from side to side repeatedly before reeling backwards and landing sprawled on the floor. Vacovská’s strength and stamina are formidable. Alongside Spitfire Company’s other fringe offering The Narrator (also a one woman show of physical endurance), and in the wider context of the ascending status of female athletes and footballers there is something satisfying about a work for a woman that pulls no punches.
However, Muhammad Ali, whose life inspired this work and whose voice we hear at the outset, was a great entertainer as well as a great boxer, and was also politically engaged throughout his life. One Step Before The Fall takes the physical sacrifice of boxing in isolation and explores it for its own sake, resulting in something which – for all its raw energy – is oddly disengaging.
As a bell rings Vacovská transforms the square stage into her own boxing ring. She looks directly into the audience to solicit moral support and nods with determination before hurling herself against the ropes. The only fight is with herself and perhaps this is one of those pieces which is more interesting to make and perform than it is to watch. It was difficult to lose sight of the fact that Vacovská was always physically in control, youthful and healthy. As she hung off the ropes and attempted the pointlessly difficult task of drinking from a glass of water it was painfully obvious that the high stakes were manufactured. The music, performed live by internationally acclaimed singer-songwriter Lenka Dusilová, was superb and complemented the choreography perfectly. There was much to admire in the design and execution of this piece, but it left me cold.
Concept and direction: Petr Boháč
Choreography and performance: Markéta Vacovská
Music and vocals: Lenka Dusilová
Producer: Spitfire Company
Box Office: 0131 226 0000
Booking Link: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/one-step-before-the-fall
Booking Until: This show has now ended its run