Hug by Verity Standen – review

A couple of days ago, I went to see Hug performed at the Forest Fringe. This vocal work was billed as ‘an immersive choral sound bath”, but it is so much more than that. The touch, warmth and physicality of my singer left me drained and in need of a quiet sit down.

Hug being performed

Hug being performed (Photo: http://www.veritystanden.com/hug.html)

I was one of twenty blindfolded audience members sat dotted around a small hall. The choir entered, with first the women using antiphonal singing, building up layers of sound from all directions around me. A single syllable was repeated, ‘you’, later being enriched by male voices as well. It was like being in the centre of a choir, with the different voices coming from all directions. But because I wasn’t having to worry about singing a line myself, I could just listen and let the piece take me over.

But this singing was just the prelude to the most remarkable part of the piece. One of the singers gently brought me to my feet and then hugged me. Silence fell across the room, before rhythmic breathing noises were made by the choir and then they broke into song again.

I could feel the hot breath of the singer, feel their chest rising and falling, and got a sense of the physicality of singing. The other voices close to me were so loud it was overwhelming. The word being sung changed to ‘mama’ and it felt like I was being dragged back to my childhood.

When the music had died down, and the choir had left, the audience took off their blindfolds. Many had been crying. For me, it was like I had just had a deep sonic massage, and I needed some quiet moments to come back to the everyday.

If you hear of this being performed elsewhere, I would strongly recommend going.