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Hilary Woods – Smock Alley Theatre


Hilary Woods performed music from her new E.P. Night live at the Smock Alley Theatre last Friday evening as part of this year’s Tiger Fringe Festival.

Walking through the winding wooden passageway that leads to the Boy’s School stage at Smock Alley the heavy ambience of crashing symbols above droning tones echoes within the old theatre walls.

Taking a seat in the row of pews that face intently into the performance space, this brooding atmosphere is cast around the performers as flickering projections dominate one corner of the venue while the other is occupied by shadowy figures that appear from the lancet window frames left-over from Smock Alley’s past life as a church.

Then, calmly and without ceremony, Woods takes to the stage and the performance begins in earnest. The slow-burning resonance and serene performance is melded together with sudden, abrupt bursts of aggressive dynamic lifts that reverberate and howl in wind-swept tones within the room.

In a show which ebbs and flows both musically and visually, the projections capture brief moments within the musician’s interplay while a haunting interpretive dancer emerges and recedes out of the darkness of the aforementioned window frames.

Central to these stylistic flourishes is Hilary Woods, un-phased and emotive. Moving through tracks such as ‘Flames’ Woods’ presence never becomes engulfed by the set-design or powerful interplay of her band. Instead the musician, seems to orchestrate each musical and creative movement around her with beguiling confidence.

The tonal sharpness of the music is cohesive and drifts without breaking momentum from one song to the other. In bewitching form, Woods stays silent between performances, ratcheting up the tension and keeping the show feeling cohesive and unbroken by outside interference.

An enchanting night in a perfectly cast locale, Hilary Woods set at Smock Alley was deftly dramatic, affecting in its atmosphere and enraptured in stylised creativity. All of which mark the impactful return of a uncompromising and singular songwriter.

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