Out of the darkness, six women emerge wearing evening dresses. They have their backs turned to us as they hiss and utter nonsense words to warm up their voices. They turn around and begin humming, almost but not quite in unison. Two sets of harmonious chords blend in and out, voices join in and drop out in a waving pattern to create a haunting discord. You can still make out the individual voices - clear, like nightingales. It is a wordless humming, a beautiful chorus of wailing.
So visceral, so haunting, this show goes beyond all genres.
They transition to spoken music of a similar style. One woman starts speaking a sentence, then the other singers join in at particular words: one woman for this word, two women for that. Selected words double and triple this way, to create the effect of something like an echo, except the source of the echo is not singular - not a single cliff, but a collection of jagged islands, evoking the Sirens of Greek myths.
They have invented an entirely new genre - a new grammar - of music, where the notes are not made of pitch and timbre but of words themselves. Yes, one may argue that rappers and slam poets already do such a thing, but the sheer complexity of the synchronisation of the Sirens goes far beyond anything I’ve ever seen.
This mesmerising style enables the show to express what seems like a comprehensive span of laments of the modern woman. Porn, the objectification of women, all the make-up and beauty products, competition amongst women, women being told they are weak, resenting Hollywood actresses, women throwing around words like ‘skank'.
There is a powerful monologue consisting entirely of jokes targeting women: “what’s the difference between a woman and a windscreen wiper?”; “why does a woman have legs?”; “what do you call the the body part around the vagina?”. Minutes go by, but the jokes don’t seem to end. We are made to recollect: how many hack comedians, how many lads in buses have we heard telling such jokes? How many times have we heard drunken people’s ‘banter’ across the streets at night?
Another woman begins a new monologue, telling us all the things she does and doesn’t do in order to feel safe. She will refuse a drink at a bar and at a club, won’t take a taxi home alone, will not walk alone in the dark. If she gets kidnapped, she will keep talking to the kidnapper, because they say you must remind him you are human. Yes, if we keep putting the onus on the woman to avoid being assaulted, she must cease to live like a human, but will this curb the assaults?
So visceral, so haunting, this show goes beyond all genres. The players will enthrall you with their music. They will make you convulse and wretch in horror. I am convinced that this is the most important work of art on show at the Fringe this year.