Review: Leaving Only A Trace – Pulse Fringe Festival

Leaving Only A Trace is a vivid performance that combines traditional Southern-Indian dance and music with a powerful premise. A young British Asian man, portrayed by Shane Shambhu, must leave behind his home and cultural heritage to seek a new life. In a world where cultures increasingly combine, it’s certainly topical ground.

Bringing traditional dance and music to a new audience can prove difficult; how do you keep the performance authentic but also ensure it delivers a clear message? Leaving Only A Trace does not struggle here. The music and dance entwine well with the story, and enhance rather than detract from the main themes.

The performance focuses on the man’s memories, providing plenty of opportunity for expression. A washing line, draped with blurred sheets, represents Shambhu’s memories and is the main catalyst for action. Through vibrant music and dance, the performance shows us that while some memories are easy to process, others can cause immense pain.

While a minority of scenes feel a little laboured and drawn out, most hit the nail on the head. In one, Shambhu performs a passionate dance of joy and sorrow around a shapely mannequin. Leaving this romantic relationship for pastures new is clearly one of his toughest challenges. In another scene, Shambhu stretches a torturous memory across his face and the paper masks him. The message is clear as he struggles to throw off the suffocating weight.

The music feels deep and rich, and integrates well with the action. The musicians are participants, seated informally a few feet from the performer, occasionally leaving their posts and merging with the action. Seeing their skills up close – both vocalisation and playing traditional instruments – adds an enjoyable extra dimension.

As Shambhu travels deeper into his life, the pulse of the play quickens. The ending is a rich cathartic payoff, as Shambhu – emotionally drained – makes the bold decision to leave his current life. It is an appealing and tender end to a performance that symbolises a journey we all must face: softly closing the doors to the past and moving into the future. Using striking visuals and music, Leaving Only A Trace brings this emotional journey to life.

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