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Dance Was Dead Risky

By Dawn Gorman

Trowbridge Guardian

Groundbreaking, powerful and effective as this piece of dance theatre is, it is unlikely that anyone at the Arc’s sellout audience last week would have admit to having enjoyed it. Because how do you admit to enjoying an intense, hour-long plus exploration of war, rape and death?

Vincent Dance Theatre and Dada Von Bzudlow Theatre have here an unnerving, political, smack-you-between-the-eyes piece played out on a bleak set of stones and a two-metre high wooden ‘wall’.

The wall, only a metre or so from the front of the stage, thrusts the early action literally in your face, as the dancers, four women and two men, throw themselves down onto the stones and over the towering wooden planking in rhythmic, choreographed sequences.

Less physically challenging for them, but more uncomfortable for the audience, is the rape scene where arms reach through gaps in the wall to manipulate the victim.

Even more disturbing, though, is the constant see-sawing of emotions among the characters who laugh giddily one moment in child like games of chase, and scream harrowingly the next as they fall to the floor ‘dead’.

There is a good deal of dropping dead in the piece, and with reference points ranging from concentration camps to September 11, it is an enormous tribute to this English-Polish collaboration that there is also genuine humour.

But when the horror and humour collide, does the audience laugh or cry?

Towards the end of the piece, when the wall has been stripped away plank by plank, and emotions have been pared down to bleak flashpoints, the dancers, dishevelled and grubbied by the dust from the stones, turn away from the audience, then back, their hands covered in ‘blood’. After a perfectly timed moment of pause, they laugh. Do you? Dare you? And if you do, does that imply complicity in some untold horror?

Harrowing, risky and doom-laden in its ultimate message that there is no end to war, Drop Dead Gorgeous is the ultimate antidote to mediocre theatre.

Signing up the piece was a brave more by the Arc; the audience’s enthusiastic response proof positive that Trowbridge audiences are waiting open-armed for cutting edge productions.