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Lit and Culture Show Up in Liam Lacey’s Astute “Gravity” Review

In response to Liam Lacey’s 625‑word review of Gravity on Globe and Mail

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Liam Lacey’s excellent “Gravity: Part weightless ballet, part cold-sweat nightmare” reads as comparative literature, or perhaps cultural study, in a work that’s greater than the sum of its parts in every way.

Blues, greens, and earth tones are painted against the void of space in an electrifying first paragraph which explodes into a nightmare sequence. The image is gone just as quickly, as Lacey assumes control of Ballet / Nightmare with a measured voice.

Audiences aren’t being guided into danger, but a crash-course through the history of film, literature, and music. The theme: survival. It’s an ambitious project, but Lacey’s ambition is the beating heart of Ballet / Nightmare.

Lacey examines the quintessential allegory of “survival drama” across media.  Ballet / Nightmare draws on Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, the somewhere-out-in-space Major Tom (conceived by David Bowie), and other characters to demonstrate not just what they have in common—but the fact that they’re effectively actors in the same basic story.

Survival here is the most basic human story. The more present the end, the more compelling the drama. Ballet / Nightmare is an intellectual tour de force, the once-in-a-while review that manages at once to entertain and enrich by causing audiences to face their basic fears. Man’s ability to reckon with Tennyson’s “nature, red in tooth and claw” is visceral, spiritual, and philosophical. Lacey captures that beautifully.

In his conclusion, Lacey discusses the Romantic notion of the sublime, to wit, the idea that a thing can be so transcendent as to embody both the terrifying and the beautiful. Ballet / Nightmare is a case in point that, in fact, a thing can.    

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