The Kilbanes’ Weightless is a minor work, if still a pleasurable one. Presented at the BRIC House as part of the Under the Radar Festival, the show takes a concert staging approach similar to The Bengsons’ recent Hundred Days. Loosely adapted from the story of Procne and Philomela found in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, it concerns the separation and eventual reunion of two sisters bound by a mystical love. There is some narration and minimal dialogue, but mostly, it is a story told through song.
The story is fairly straightforward but, as presented here, there are some holes. Procne and Philomela are initially torn apart by a hunter named Tereus, who lures Procne to his island with sultry words. Given the intensity of the bond which has been established between the sisters, Procne’s casual abandoning of Philomela rings false. Her powerlessness before Tereus is also difficult to accept, given the strength projected by Kate Kilbane in the role. As the story grows ever more fantastical (following Ovid’s lead), complaints about plausibility start to seem moot. But Weightless never quite recovers from its undercooked opening.
What works here is, of course, the music. The Kilbanes have composed a number of thrilling pieces, brought to vibrant life by a small band. The title song is particularly effective and Josh Pollock imbues Tereus’ songs with a wonderfully devilish energy. But the stars are, of course, Kilbane and Lila Blue (who plays Philomela). The characters’ bond may live inconsistently in the story, but when their two gorgeous voices join as one, the effect is stirring.
The show’s narrative never reaches the heights of its songs, a frustration I also felt with Hundred Days. It’s hard not to feel, sometimes, that shows told in a concert setting consider their narrative demands to be less. It isn’t the case – a half-formed story will always sink your show, regardless of form. Weightless is a pleasure to hear, but it muddles towards a messy finale, never quite finding its wings.