‘When Angels Fall’: Light at the end of a tunnel
BOSTON – Fiat lux. Let there be light. In a dark, dystopian world, light becomes that more precious, and we become focused on those singular beams and their illumination of the human form in “When Angels Fall,” a study in movement by French choreographer/director Raphaelle Boitel, now being presented under the auspices of ArtsEmerson through Sunday at the Cutler Majestic Theatre on Tremont Street.
What happens in a dark world after a global collapse, when flightless angels fall to earth, is a blend of circus, dance and cinema, amidst ropes and scaffolding. Its has no dialogue – no words are spoken, and other human utterances are few.
In its use of graceful aerial skills and demonstrations of strength, you would be tempted to compare it to the works of Cirque du Soleil, but this is a darker, deeper vision, a world where something has gone horribly wrong and the survivors are simply trying to overcome endless obstacles to connect with one another.
Boitel – a talented aerialist and contortionist herself – and her seven-member cast exemplify the unflagging resilience of the human spirit and its ability to rise again when things seem bleakest.
Boitel has been influenced by artists from all walks of life such as Charlie Chaplin and David Lynch. And in its ability to convey ideas and communicate without dialogue, it also owes a debt to the skills of a Marcel Marceau.
In one haunting scene, a record plays on an old phonograph, the scratchy voice sounding like something out of the silent movie era of the 1920s: “Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do.” The man who has descended from the ceiling struggles to comprehend.
The Chaplinesque influence is apparent in the movements of characters in an early scene when three members of the company dangle helplessly. suspended by a hook at the end of a long chain that is attached to their jackets.
The lighting and set by Tristan Baudoin – also one of the performers, along with Alba Faivre, Loic Leviel, Emily Zuckerman, Lilou Herin, Nicolas Lourdelle and Clara Henry – work in concert to allow us to hone in on encounters between man and machine, focus on a harrowing escape via rope, or a struggle against a piece of scaffolding that ends triumphantly.
There is a constant, hazy fog; performers appear and disappear, and we lean in to see what has become of them and how they will emerge.
The haunting theme “Daisy” will return from time to time and where dialogue is lacking, the score by Arthur Bison fills the gaps, amplifying what we are seeing on stage.
“When Angels Fall” is spare and stark but a unique and original vision by a talented troupe and its talented leader, Boitel. Unfortunately, it is at the Curler Majestic Theatre only through Sunday, Feb. 24.
Arts Emerson and Cie L’Oublie present “When Angels Fall.” Directed and choreographed by Raphaelle Boitel. Artistic collaboration, set design and lighting design by Tristan Baudoin. Music and sound design by Arthur Bison. Costumes by Lilou Herin. Rigging, machinery and set design partnership, Nicholas Lourdelle, Artistic assistant Clara Henry. Tickets: Artsemerson.org.