WITHOUT TRACE (1999)
250,000 people go missing every year in the U.K. They walk out of their houses and out of their lives and into the silence of cold statistics. When someone you love disappears all you have left is your imagination.
WITHOUT TRACE dealt with the subject of a missing person. It followed the story of Beth, played by Christine Devaney, who disappeared on a journey of self-discovery, leaving anxious friends, her lover and a trail of mystery and misery behind her.
The last piece that Mark Murphy made for V-TOL, it was by far the most complex fusing movement, text, music and film to create an intricate layering of imagery and gripping drama. With four dancers, two actors and three musicians, WITHOUT TRACE was a breathtaking assault on the senses.
Thanks to an Arts for Everyone National Lottery Award, this was the first V-TOL production that incorporated live music into the action - a significant development. Composed by Graham Cunnington (TEST DEPT) and performed by a band of three musicians, the soundtrack drove the action and reflected the drama of the characters' lives. It mixed rhythmic with ambient, electronic with acoustic and utilised live instrumentation, including trumpet, violin, harmonica, percussion and voice. A specially commissioned script was written by Spencer Hazel (Boilerhouse, Frantic Assembly) and performed live by two actors, one male and one female, who portrayed the characters' innermost thoughts and internal conflicts. Miranda Melville designed a vast white set which swept across the stage, its conclusion out of sight in the wings, suggesting a journey whose destination is always just beyond reach. Comprising different levels with walkways and doors that doubled as screens for film projection, the vast white expanse of the set echoed the huge open spaces of the countryside that Beth travelled through on her journey.
After a full week of research and development the
Company undertook a 13 week rehearsal period during which the artistic
elements grew alongside each other, each feeding off the other. Of this
complex creative process, Mark said "I couldn't imagine making work that
doesn't have a multi-tiered approach to it."
To view one of the photographs, video stills or video clips, click on the thumbnails below:
What the press said
"Mark's cleverness is in showing multiple versions
of an event, or reactions to that event, or flaky memories of it, with subtly
different emphases. Without Trace is a work of advanced sensibility."
"...a stunning 80 minutes of technical imagery.....an
innovative company that is not afraid to stretch the imagination..."
"What begins as an enigmatic mystery turns
into a high-speed road movie, but it's an exhilarating spectacle for all
"One can see why Murphy has expertly devised
an original and richly hybrid theatre that layers film, text, movement
and music, erasing the lines between them, and delivering a punchy, provocative
and frequently overwhelming experience. Watching a V-TOL show is an event
Ð and increasingly one not to be missed... The impact is immense... Juxtaposition
is everywhere Ð on film, on stage with dancers, actors and musicians playing
live. The flow is seamless and organic, the action immaculately judged
"The director Mark
Murphy has a particular knack for the choreography of arguments and negotiations.
The interplay between the film work and the live performance is among
the keenest combinations of the media I have seen; projections are on
a massive scale, allowing performers to dance within a 20ft image of themselves."
For full press reviews on this production, go
to the 'Press and Interviews' section,
What the Audience said
"Very striking - many of the images stayed with me for weeks after the performance."
"Quite spectacular - it was spellbinding!" "V-TOL give a unique performance experience - superb dancing once again." "Keep up the good work!"
"Technically stunning - obviously well rehearsed....the music and musicians were superb."
"An amazing performance - enjoyable and impressive."
"The performance was exhilarating and exciting. Very different, but thrilling, and the music was spine chilling!"
"The mix of film, dance and voice worked beautifully."
"The performance was superbly crafted - it was very powerful."
"The experience was out of the ordinary - I was affected by it and wanted to talk about it afterwards."
"Excellent performance. Interesting combination
of dance and film. I would jump at the chance to see V-TOL again."
Without Trace gave a total 37 performances at 24 middle scale venues in the UK. New venues to V-TOL's touring circuit included The Hall for Cornwall, Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham and the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. The Crucible Theatre Sheffield and Eden Court Inverness also came back into its touring circuit. The success of V-TOL's audience development work meant that seven venues were able to take more than one performance. The total UK audience attendance was 12,406 - a 20% increase on the previous tour. The average attendance per performance increased to 376 with sell out performances at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Brighton, Nottingham, Swindon, Eastleigh and Sheffield. The Company returned to the Palais des Beaux Arts in Charleroi for the third time and the tour culminated with highly acclaimed sell out performances at the National Theatre of Romania in Bucharest.
Without Trace was co-commissioned by Swindon Dance National Dance Agency, South Hill Park Arts Centre, Bracknell, The Corn Exchange, Newbury and Northern Stage. Also supported by Southern Arts Board and Northern Arts Board who supported the commission of a new soundscore from Graham Cunnington.