A BEGINNING #16161D

Aurora Bauzà & Pere Jou

As we enter a dark room, we are encouraged to keep our eyes closed. A text is read in Romanian, which I’m later told means “You don’t need light on the stage to enjoy the performance.” Indeed, the darkness remains our faithful companion in A Beginning #16161D, a work that seems to expand time and space with elegant simplicity.

Voices grow into an a cappella choir while the five singers slowly walk to the stage. As light shines through their fingers, that otherworldly soundscape transports us to places unknown.

The simple yet brilliant lighting design, often realized through handheld torches, opens up visual associations. A floating mouth in the dark brings Samuel Beckett’s Not I to mind, while elsewhere, pixelated worlds, star constellations and alien existence seem to come to life.

“After the end we will find a way,” goes the hopeful concluding line. It was delivered with such fragile anticipation by a single voice that I was left deeply moved, even as silence and darkness filled the room once more.

Ingeborg Zackariassen

In the beginning there was darkness…

Like a photographer developing film in a dark room, the five performer-chorists of Aurora Bauzà and Pere Jou’s A Beginning #16161D know how to manipulate shades and the faintest rays of light. In this exploration of dreamlike, in-between spaces, light and dark are not opposites, but two sides of the same element. 

At first, we don’t see the source of the ethereal chants. Cocooned in the soft gloom, warm male voices blend exquisitely with heavenly female soprano notes, in choral harmonies fine-tuned over centuries. Then the singers materialise and turn towards us. Finally, we can see their faces, illuminated by lightbulbs they hold in their hands. 

The light shines by turns on the performers’ faces, limbs and backs, creating an illusion of constant movement, hovering between chiaro and obscuro. When the light starts flickering more rapidly, the performers appear to merge together as hallucinatory doppelgangers.

In the end, the darkness returns with a hopeful chant: ”Even in darkness, there is beauty.” They proved their point.

Marína Srnka

#16161D is code for a colour: a deep blue-grey hue, also known as Eigengrau. As it turns out, Eigengrau is what the human eye sees in complete darkness, rather than black. Aurora Bauzà and Pere Jou give it pride of place in A Beginning #16161D: For the first ten minutes, after the house lights dim, there is literally nothing to see.

On the other hand, there is plenty to hear and feel. Classical voices rise all around the auditorium, enveloping us gently. As they move to the stage, rays of light reveal five silhouettes. Simple handheld torches serve to create eerie tableaux – hovering hands and faces, sculptural backs.

Occasionally, it turns slightly gimmicky, as when the lights flick on and off like clockwork. Yet the singing – fragments of Gregorio Allegri’s Miserere as well as two original pieces credited to Bauzà – is so lush, so blissful, that any time spent in this chorus’s shadow comes as a balm. If this is the beginning for Bauzà and Jou, expect them to go far.

Laura Cappelle