Space Panorama and Ring Hands

Andrew Dawson
Unity Theatre
25th February 2015

Reviewed by Joe Coventry

Gold Fingers

This was different.

The auditorium filled up as a soundtrack of the Houston Apollo 11 Mission Control counted down to blast off for the first manned moon landing. The 'stage', a black cloth covered space the size of a small table, lit up and a pair of hands prepared to take the audience on a flight to an alien world. Andrew Dawson has been making this journey for around forty years, and he returned to the Unity this evening to do it again.

In capturing the essence of the momentous event, no detail was left out. The diminutive astronauts two fingered walk to the launch pad led into the massive Saturn 5 Rocket blast off from Cape Canaveral, flight, capsule landing, moon walk, take off and nail biting flight back towards earth and a safe landing.

The are no props or spoken words from the performer, only some pre-recorded comments on how the mission is progressing and the difficulties that have to be overcome; only manual dexterity and occasional facial expressions capture the unfolding tension.

What took several days is over in thirty minutes as the digit manipulation concludes in an arms wide and beaming smiles ticker tape parade. Passages of Shostokovitch's 10th Symphony provided the edgy soundtrack to proceedings, which were strangely moving.

A decent interval gave the artist a chance to rest and massage his hands before attempting a new work from 2014. This was a half hour reduction of the action from Wagner's Ring Cycle - four huge operas spread over sixteen action packed hours.

A brief explanation of the stealing of the Rhinegold up to the ultimate fall of the Gods in Valhalla was given before Dawson's hands wove their magic interpretation of events. Rhine Maidens, Dwarves, Gods, Giants, Valkyries, the hero Seigfied and the ill-fated Ring itself ;all got their moment in the spotlight as the agile tendons in his fingers, thumbs and facial muscles worked overtime. Key motifs of the composer's music again added to the breadth of the spectacle unfolding.

Although also lit from the sidelines this was not an attempt at shadow puppetry but a unique form of theatre. The suppleness of the tools of his trade were paramount, he confided in an after show Q&A, and they have been extremely well cared for over the years from product promotion in several TV advertisements along the way.

Having pulled off such massive projects as witnessed tonight what could possibly entice him next? Well, Puccini's Tosca has him already rubbing his palms in anticipation. You have to hand it to the guy, he thinks big.

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