Review: Once Up On A Cube (Totally Thames at Syon House)

Once Up In A Cube, created by Scirocco Dance Theatre, is a playful, site-specific performance promoting green architecture and reclaiming our public spaces.

It aims to raise awareness of the impact that architecture has on our social settings, and asks if we can learn from the Thames a way of planning and designing our city thst can be ever-flowing, fluid and dynamic.

Scirocco Dance Theatre is an emerging company founded by choreographer/researcher Irene Fiordilino and sound designer Aiden Good. Together with their associate artists they work at the intersection between choreography and architecture.

Production photo of Once Up On A Cube at Trinity Laban

Once Up On A Cube is their fourth project, and due to its nature of being performed outdoors in different places, it will be viewed slightly differently each time, affected by where it is placed and what happens around it.

Appearing alongside Fiordilino are performers Kirsten Franks, Maria Sole Montacci, Melissa Bori and Vicki Matranga. All boast physical dexterity and interpersonal chemistry, and my eyes were often drawn to Montacci and Bori, elegant and meticulous performers both.

Franks’s graceful flair and Matranga’s sense of playful mischief worked well, while Fiordilino has created a powerful framework for herself and her colleagues, echoing the elements that warm and cool, and the youthful exuberance of exploring the world we live in.

Production photo for Once Up On A Cube at Trinity Laban

The ‘cube’ itself is a versatile collection of heavy cubes covered with fake grass and including various grip- and foot-holes for easy of climbing and movement.

Held together by hinges they can are are easily moved and positioned to enhance the narrative. They form a barrier, a platform, a play area, an entrapment.

They blend with their surroundings (at this performance, the lawn in front of Syon House), while remaining an alien presence. The house, owned by the Duke of Northumberland and often used for filming, gives a fascinating perspective to the show.

The dancers are dressed in navy blue overalls with bright pink ballet slippers. Perhaps this is a nod to the river that flows so definitively through our city, as it nurtures, soothes, pollutes, calms, rises and lowers, and destroys.

Photo of Once Up On A Cube at Syon House

A fascinating piece of dance theatre, Once Up On A Cube is often perplexing, and you find yourself having to choose which piece of choreography to watch due to the large performance space, which I found quite distracting.

The live soundscape is of water, waves, muted notes, and elegant rhythms, which flow naturally into the movement of the dancers as they manipulate the human-sized cube to suggest unpredictability, creation, and co-existence with nature.

Intriguing and technically brilliant, while not wholly successful in achieving its aim, this show does raise questions about how we influence and interact with the outdoors.


Once Up On A Cube was at Syon House on 3 Sep as part of Totally Thames Festival.

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