Fringe 2019: Ink at La Chapelle

Ink was a visual metaphor for the cyclical self-destructive relationship between an artist and their craft. It was a brilliant depiction of how one invests themselves in their work and how the result of doing so can cost so much. It was also a beautiful story of one man overcoming debatably self-imposed adversity, and learning how to create without suffering.

As implied by the title, the metaphor was created by the simple use of ink and paper, fortified by shadow and light. The inherent minimalism of the stage drew all of our focus onto every movement and gesture of Alastair Knowle’s character: a man who is literally made out of his own art. His appearance, the set, and his gestures were all incredibly striking. I will never cease to be amazed by Alastair’s comfort and familiarity with his own body, his facial expressions, and his fluidity. His command of the stage and clear communication of meaning without words was both impressive and immersive.

The show itself told the story of an artistic journey, one which so many artists are familiar with. We flirt with inspiration, create something beautiful, and seek approval and validation. Then we move on to another muse, another whirlwind of creation, another hit of dopamine. We do this over and over again, a trail of finished or discarded work in our wake, immersing ourselves deeper and deeper into our art until there is no distinguishing between where our hand ends and our brush begins, no telling who is the canvas and who is the artist, no hearing where the music trails off and our own heart picks up the beat. This show, however, posed the excellent question of who is in control? Is the artist holding the pen, or is the pen holding the artist? What happens when the artist lets go of the reins and allows the art to take over? How high will that price be? For our hero, it seemed at times as though it might be costing him his life. Each time he survived, he dove back into the work and let it consume him again and again, until the surprisingly uplifting conclusion.

From a technical perspective, this show was executed with more excellence and precision than any Fringe show I have ever seen. Music and sound cues were timed perfectly with his gestures, the lighting was stirring and dramatic. The wordlessness of the piece did not leave us in silence, because music was used to indicate the emotional and mental states of the artist throughout the piece, making any moments of true silence far more impactful and meaningful. 

Alastair created a world that, despite being black and white, was incredibly full of colour. He told a story that many of us have lived before, but he did it with a grace and strength that can only leave us with hope and inspiration for our own creative journeys. If you are an artist, this piece might help you identify yourself and your own struggles. If you aren’t an artist, maybe this piece can help you understand a bit about what we go through. Either way, it is a work of art in itself.