Ice Station Zero – Absolute Zero – Brighton Festival, May 1999

When was the last time every hair on your body stood on end? When was the last time you stood so still you could feel your pulse through your feet? When was the last time you heard a statue scream?

Absolute Zero is a very strange experience indeed. You walk in off the street and find yourself in a Dali dreamscape. burned trees upended in a huge black teardrop of melted ice figures waiting on the branches. Strange icemen, sculpted to a sliver drip from the ceiling. They appear to sing. Such things are not common on the south coast – not without drugs anyway.

You wander with the rest of the audience in the chill semi-darkness as the music grows more odd and beautiful, wondering what exactly this is– dance, sculpture or just the coolest nightclub chill-out room on the planet? You feel suddenly sad you’re getting too old to take Ecstasy.

You notice the ropes hanging from the ceiling, maybe have a swing or stick your hands inside the grounded icemen whose torsos have been slashed through with half-moon cuts. No, there’s nothing there — no heart, no soul, just someone else’s hand coming from the other side.

Balls of ice arranged like the boulders in a Japanese pebble garden light up and pulse Day-glo green, white and orange. Little huddles of punters stand staring at them until the three figures in the trees begin to move. first they crab out tentatively on their ropes. Then they grow more daring, thrusting their buttocks and their feet up into your face. it gets hypnotic for a while before a gleeful, splashy dance wakes you from your reverie. In a final sublime scene the dancers climb ropes to the ceiling to join the ice gods, now bluey-green and glowing before dropping like drips to the floor.

Kaffe Matthews’ soundscape is wonderful. charlie Morrissey’s choreography teasing, but itis Walter Bailey’s delicate sculptures — done remarkably, with a chainsaw — which linger long in the memory.

If Absolute Zero sometimes succeeds more as sculpture than dance, there are still some genuinely electric moments. And God knows, life throws up precious few. Grab them while you can.

by Fiachra Gibbons
The Guardian: Miscellany
Absolute Zero is at the Corn Exchange
Brighton, UK
Information and booking for the BrightonFestival on
+44 (1273) 709709
Wednesday, May 5, 1999