It’s not often that you attend a funeral for someone you never knew. Yet, for some patrons, that will be their experience of , she took me back so tenderly, from banished? productions. Billed as a five-part, immersive dirge for the company – before they fall “headlong into luminous doom,” – audiences are asked to participate in a long-form mourning ritual. If you can suppress the question of why you as a spectator are implicated and simply embrace the concept, , she took me back so tenderly, will wash over you like a cold rush of sea water.
For those looking for a Fringe piece which could never be anything but live theatre, , she took me back so tenderly, is unmissable. banished? has taken over community arts space RhizomeDC and installed five “experiences” in discrete areas. Each experience speaks to change, life, or death: two women dance their experience with reproduction; a dancer embodies a fight with cancer; two mystics invite you to transform your loss into food; a cyborg demonstrates her own evolution; and a destroyer and an archivist simultaneously do their work on the physical remains of banished?’s past.
Audience members were not allowed to take program sheets home, so it is difficult to specifically highlight performers. However, the most affecting performances were those from the destroyer and the archivist. Because they were specifically handling the remains of banished? and are presumably banished? company members, it was moving to watch them gently embrace the end of their own work. The two mystics, as well, brought vulnerability in sharing their own losses and expressing sympathy when the audience did, as well.
Though all of the unique experiences in this piece are artistically interesting, some are more successful than others and all feel disconnected, despite thematic resonance. Unlike immersive performances like Sleep No More or The Donkey Show, , she took me back so tenderly, has only the tenuous conceptual through-line of the end of banished?. As a result, instead of a fluid performance experience, it feels more like being guided through five exhibits in the same performance museum.
, she took me back so tenderly, is a Fringe experience worth having. Certainly, immersive performance allows for a kind of surreal magic that cannot really be achieved in a traditional performance space. However much the self-referential concept of the piece might irk you, it is worth making the trek out to Takoma to see something unlike anything else you will see in the festival this year. And, sadly, unlike anything you are likely to see at the festival again.
Running Time: 60 minutes, with no intermission.
Check other reviews and show previews on DCMetroTheaterArts’ 2016 Capital Fringe Page.