Parliament of Ghosts

One of our six Creative Collaborations for 2022

A stairway that disappears into darkness. Abandoned meeting rooms littered with municipal remains. A flutter of wings. Creatures flit in and out of sight, weaving through distorted spaces, their motives unclear. A gathering commences in the grand debating chamber: a final dance for the end of days…

Parliament of Ghosts is an atmospheric new work created by dancer and choreographer Róisín O’Brien working in collaboration with electronic composer Rowan McIlvride. The work has been designed specifically for the Central Chamber in the Old Royal High School, which was at one point in its history earmarked to be the debating chamber of a Scottish devolved parliament.

The Late Night Feature performance will involve four live dancers on a stage built into the centre of the room, with audience surrounding it on all sides. Projections created by street artist Trench One will be mapped onto the stage transforming it into a horizontal screen that the dancers will move on. Dramatic lighting and specially created soundscapes will fill the chamber, building an intense atmosphere, immersing the audience in the dramatic spectacle as the Parliament of Ghosts swirls into life, building into a climax before fading away.

Expect a 30-minute contemporary dance performance with detailed choreography and beautiful movement that the audience can get right up close to. The music will be electronic with an emphasis on ambient soundscapes, texture and atmosphere, and the lighting and projections will be dramatic and abstract. Altogether this will be a darkly atmospheric and haunting show, creating a powerful experience to haunt imaginations and memories for a long time afterwards.

About Róisín and Rowan

Róisín is a choreographer, arts writer and curator based in Edinburgh. Her work has been presented at previous Hidden Door festivals, as well as the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Summerhall, Resolution Festival and DanceLive. Róisín makes encompassing contemporary and ballet performances that play with formal expectations and showcase the talents of the dancers she collaborates with. 

Rowan is an experimental electronic composer based in Edinburgh. Her work primarily explores the vulnerabilities and organic textures of the human voice. 

Review by Heather Richardson

Team member Heather attended our Review Writing Workshop and wrote the following review of Parliament of Ghosts

Friday night saw Parliament of Ghosts, the second of Hidden Door’s creative collaborations, take the stage in the Central Chamber. The show brought together intriguing choreography with enchanting sounds and visuals in a pressingly introspective work, created by choreographer Róisín O’Brien in collaboration with electronic composer Rowan McIlvride, and street artist Trench One. The room’s original design as a debating chamber and its still tangible parliamentary history mirrored the cold atmosphere and themes of deceit, rebirth, and repressed individuality in the performance.

In the audience, we were immediately captivated by a fascinating sequence of the performers weaving between one another softly, implying a sense of fellowship and collaboration that we would soon discover to be false. Although the choreography initially suggested a sense of closeness between the performers through acutely mimicked movements and an almost entangled closeness, this soon gracefully melts away to contrastingly reveal an ugly selfishness in each character.

This change is imposed following a hand lurching from under the state itself, levying the disruptive force into the piece and instigating a pacing battle that saw the performers’ characters maliciously sabotage their peers and inevitably themselves. We are then confronted with the idea that individuality might become less pure when the route to achieving it is disingenuous to our peers and those around us.

This idea was complimented by the performers’ robotic movements and accompanied by the fragmented soundscape that suggested a process of dehumanisation, closely followed by a collaborative rebirthing. The disjointed music’s assistance in this evoked a notable change in pace, thus intriguing us further and inviting reflection on reinvention and the contemplation of one’s self in an environment where others are doing the same.

There were more similarities exhibited in movements than there were differences, further questioning the notion of uniqueness and identity. By the time the climax emerges, both performers and viewers alike are forced to temporarily forget the initial limitations created by the duplicitous relationships between the characters.

We see the performers being confined into an invisible square of their own creation; perhaps as a result of their own egos that slowly emerged and then confronted us throughout the piece. Only when their individuality is truly embraced, through quirky, new, and discernibly high-energy movements, do they finally break free of their restraints. Róisín’s delicate and considered work then leaves us with the pertinent question: how can we embrace our individualism without jeopardising those around us?