JUNK ENSEMBLE
THE IRISH TIMES
02 October 2013

Dusk Ahead at Dublin Theatre Festival
by Michael Seaver
Star rating: ****

Junk Ensemble's latest work returns to familiar territory: the state of unpredictability between pillars of certainty, a juncture to be embraced rather than feared. Dusk Ahead is less familiar in format. Gone are the intricate sets, cast of children, or unusual setting that audiences have grown used to, replaced by a simple and beautiful visual setting of shadowy crepuscular light and parallel lines of gold braids by lighting designer Sarah Jane Shiels and set designer Sabine Dargent. The simplicity of setting is matched by purity of concept.

Dusk is the place before the inevitable blackness of the night, a time of transition when dog becomes wolf and tame humanity transforms to wild bestiality. The multiple metaphoric spin-offs include dependency within the pack and how Darwinian order sets in between those who can cope with the darkness and those who can't. Within the literal and metaphoric fog, the blindfolded are guided by sighted dancers ringing hand bells as they trace uncertain paths around the stage. Later, this dependency is magnified as dancers are conjoined in a lip touching duet or with their hair braided together. And although the darkness might demand co-dependency, it also encourages self-reflection.

Towards the end, Justine Cooper chooses blindness over sight, re-tying a blindfold after it is removed. Similarly, one of the dancers' songs wonders what ostriches may see in the sand. These songs - self-accompanied with ukuleles, bells, accordion and Zoe Reardon's cello - along with many movement sequences are delivered with dead-pan efficiency that imbues a mythical authority to the simplest words or gestures.

Composer Denis Clohessy's score traces this emotional journey with a musical range from playful pizzicato to techo-gloom. Dusk Ahead's brooding momentum sustains the episodic format over its barely traceable dramatic arc, not with hurtling certainty, but the slow inevitable progress of the cast's blindfolded walking.