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Mmm Hmmm review

Zoo Southside

By Daisy Bowie-Sell |
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'Mmm Hmmm'
Paul Blakemore 'Mmm Hmmm'
There are three exceptionally strange beings in Verity Standen’s piece ‘Mmm Hmmm’. Draped in coloured cloth, the ytrio of performers flit about the stage together, harmonising  their movements and their song. The noises they make sometimes sound like incoherent babble and sometimes soar melodically. They move about the stage popping up in spotlights, they snaffle biscuits and spray the crumbs all over the place. It’s like they’re magnificently voiced aliens that have just been dropped in from outer space.  

‘Mmm Hmmm’ is less theatre, more performance a capella art song, if there is such a thing. The singing, from Standen herself alongside Ellie Showering and Dominie Hooper, is superb and when the three concentrate on one long phrase of music, the harmonies are startlingly complex. Their bodies are used to change the sound – by tapping on their chests or lying prostrate on the floor. Sometimes they jump up and down repeatedly while they sing, sometimes they dance together.

It all makes for an often mesmeric but ultimately one-dimensional show. The cavernous space at Zoo Southside dwarfs the piece somewhat – it would probably have benefitted from a more intimate room - although the acoustics certainly weren't a problem. The noises and rhythm are beguiling, but essentially 'Mmm Hmm' lacks drama and emerges simply as an impressively crafted, playful piece of music that doesn't approach the impact of Standen's peerless 'Hug'.

By Daisy Bowie-Sell

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