Reviewer: Chantal Guevara
When most people think of dance theatre, they probably think of the likes of family-friendly dance theatre such as Matthew Bourne or Jasmin Vardimon. Possibly even the experimental dance theatre which Laban students and graduates seem to excel at – yet none of this even comes close to the worlds created by Mark Bruce, whose Made In Heaven seems to allude heavily to both David Lynch and to Hal Hartley.
The premise of the story is simple: an isolated island prison, a prison break, a brutal murder. But the story which unfolds is so much more vivid and strange than that…. not least due to the striking imagery and staging which transforms Made In Heaven into so much more than just a work of dance theatre.
Made In Heaven’s strengths lie in its visuals and theatrics – which are so compelling that the dance sequences, very Hartleyesque in their randomness and spontaneity, are less interesting by comparison and halt what little there is of a storyline. Nonetheless, there are some beautiful dance sequences, especially for Cree Barnett Williams and Kristin McGuire, the piece’s protagonist, with evocative and expressive duets.
One of Made In Heaven’s more bizarre – if that is possible – devices is to cast Rick Bland in multiple rôles, from a blind sheriff to what appears to be a blind sheriff cross-dressing as a soon-to-be-blinded nun.
It’s hard to write about Made In Heaven without enthusing about the dramatics of each scene in turn; suffice to say that the combination of the stage and lighting design effectively transform the atmospheric setting of Wilton’s Music Hall into a claustrophobic stormy island, while the staging works so naturally with the split stage of Wilton’s that it’s easy to assume it was created with such a stage in mind – for example, the upper stage forming a shoreline alongside the billowing blue cloth manipulated by the dancers to create waves: sometimes with a mermaid shifting underneath, or with a fully-articulated shark gliding above.
Don’t be deceived by the inocuous trailer for Made In Heaven: you can be certain that you won’t see anything else like this for a long time to come, and “dance theatre” doesn’t start to describe the experience that is Mark Bruce’s storytelling.