Review: Atlantis Banal: Beneath the Surface, at the Traverse Theatre

Shona Reppe presents Atlantis Banal: Beneath the Surface, is simply delightful; a glorious, and rewarding pastiche of the performance art-form. Family friendly in absolutely the best way, it is never patronising, persistently imaginative, and not afraid to challenge.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Atlantis Banal: Beneath the Surface
📍 Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
📅 21 – 23 November 2019
🕖 Running time: 45 minutes
👥 Created by Shona Reppe
💰 £10 (with concessions available)

Atlantis Banal (Shona Reppe) is the world’s foremost exponent of ‘Everythingism’, that is, finding art in any, and everything; and everyone. The audience has been invited to the opening of her newest exhibition at the POP-UP Art Gallery (played by the Traverse 2).

The studio doors open upon a fully realised pocket world, complete with ushers, a terrifically earnest curator, and the enigmatic artist herself. Guests are invited to sit on benches surrounding a central white catwalk-esque stage, upon which ‘the art’ will happen. From the curator’s first sonorous biography of Atlantis Banal, enthusiastically illustrated through wildly silly, yet polished video visuals, I didn’t so much suspend my disbelief, as cheerfully toss it over my shoulder.

When Ms. Banal makes her appearance, a mermaid created from Christmas lights, net, and sand, it’s clear that for all the fun poking, this ‘performed exhibition’ was born to praise performance art, not to bury it.

Four further pieces follow, each marvellously absurd, and laced with meaning. There’s no preaching, just an erudite nudge towards a taking a look at life with a more artistic eye. There’s spectacle, music, mystery, physical comedy and joy; lots and lots of joy. The rich seam of humour threaded throughout, is both well-conceived and delivered, with the audience’s smiles and laughs, deftly woven into the group experience.

Reppe is simply fabulous, creating every role but that of Graham (Tamlin Wiltshire), the much put-upon gallery dogsbody. Each of her characters is a distinct, and quickly recognisable personality within the performance space. Tamlin, for his part, makes a most genial straight-man, and an ace fish pilot.

I have zero intention of spoiling the actual exhibits. This show deserves to be experienced, not described. I will say that, the audience participation is so natural as to recruit and reassure even those of the wariest disposition. I left the POP-UP Art Gallery quite convinced I had just visited a bona-fide exhibition; a testament to this piece’s production values.

By the look on my fellow attendees’ faces, I wasn’t the only one who left merrily entranced. Charlot Lemoine and Shona Reppe are to be congratulated for creating something fresh, new, and, for my money, important. Catherine Wheels Theatre Company have produced another gem.

When, not if, this piece tours again, I strongly suggest getting a ticket.

Atlantis Banal: Beneath the Surface played at The Traverse 2, from the 21st– 23rd of November. More information can be found at:

Even the darkest night will end, and the sun will rise” – Les Misérables

We are living in a difficult time, but it will pass, and I look forward to enjoying the theatre with you when it does. Stay safe, and remember to sing La Vie Bohème to yourself every time you wash your hands. Start to finish, please.

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