Review: Civilisation by Jaz Woodcock-Stewart with Morgann Runacre-Temple(Ed Fringe 2022)



I’m not sure how to write about a show that defies words with such beauty. There are very few of them punctuating Jaz Woodcock-Stewart and Morgann Runacre-Temple's Civilisation; yet for all the words in all the shows at the fringe, you’d be hard-pressed to find one that speaks louder than this. According to the website it’s 80 minutes long, I’d have gladly spent the whole day watching it.


I can see a bed, a stove, a table, a bin, and a lot of flowers. Someone has died, presumably, and soon a woman in black dress comes onstage. Dries her hair. ABBA’s Lay All Your Love On Me thumps loudly over the top. The music stops, the silence is cavernous, she goes, she comes back, she fights her dress, she fries an egg. And all the while, three dancers weave through her newly-empty space, never acknowledged, filling a void. The combination of intricately observed naturalism and contemporary abstract dance is mesmerising, each movement charged with something, intangible yet immediately understandable, loaded with meaning yet indescribable; I am spellbound watching someone carry on whilst life continues to move around them. The dancers are captivating, occasionally synchronised with the sounds of the woman’s world, dancing to hold music, moving to the beat of a game of bop-it, teasing a connection that never quite transcends into a collision; there is meaning to be made here and one of my favourite things Civilisation does is let you build your own connections.


The sheer weight of each familiar action floors me. I cry when she realises her bread is out of date, I cry when she folds her partner’s shirts. A game of bop-it is, by turns, hilarious then excruciating; she answers a work call and I wonder how anyone can bring themselves to carry on when everything has become so pointless. How can you watch crap TV? Feed yourself? Stem your flowers? Change your sheets? Even after death, eggs will fry in hot oil.


I miss this show, I wish it would go on longer, I wish I could step in and see it continuing whenever I liked. It is deeply affecting, profound, intimate yet universal; if you are in Edinburgh this week, make it top of your list.


Civilisation is on at ZOO Southside until the 28th August (tickets here) before going on tour.


Civilisation is presented as part of the Horizon Showcase 22, see all the participating shows here.


Creative Team Director Jaz Woodcock-Stewart

Choreography Morgann Runacre-Temple with the company

Designer Charlotte Espiner

Lighting Designer Alex Fernandes

Rehearsal Director Emily Thompson-Smith

Assistant Director Nikhil Vyas

Rehearsal & Production Photography Alex Brenner

Performers Imogen Alvares, Claire Gaydon, James Olivo, Caroline Moroney, Emily Thompson-Smith

Credit: Alex Brenner