Writers: Breaking Tradition
Director: Damien Barber
Reviewer: Sam Lowe
You are about to enter the virtual land of Quest.It is inside a computer game where folk dance, hip hop, martial arts, and “nostalgic” gaming music can be encountered. This is an intriguing premise. Unfortunately, it’s one of those scenarios where it maybe looks amazing in your imagination, but fails to come into fruition on stage.
Kai’s sister suddenly disappears on the last night before they move house. It’s up to Kai to find her. However, she hasn’t ran out into the real world but escaped to the world of Quest. This family orientated dance theatre is an eclectic fusion of morris, clog, and sword dancing. There is: popping, locking, breakdancing, and martial arts too.
Two introductory performances occur before the main performance. The first is an adorable dance piece performed by Primary School children. They have lovely smiles, keep in time with one another, and have memorised the routine well in such a short space of rehearsal time. Secondly, The Demon Barbers perform. They are a folk band made up of five violinists, an accordion player, a keyboardist, and a bass guitarist. It is clear how well practised and rehearsed they are, performing an entertaining variety of instrumental songs. The violinists skillfully tap dance too, demonstrating refined technique. This is a lovely start to the event; it is nice to see young people getting an opportunity to perform in such a first-rate, big theatre.
Although, the same, sadly, cannot be said for Quest, which follows afterwards. The show is meant to be a family piece of theatre but the content points towards it to being more like children’s theatre. This can be seen in: the very basic storyline (which often gets forgotten about in long, drawn-out scenes of dance); what appears to be a CBeebies-inspired performance style, and songs which basically explain exactly what the characters are clearly doing.
It’s effective to be cheesy in family or children’s theatre, but to be honest this is more like digesting an entire cheese board. Consequently, the show is over performed and an unstimulating watch. Furthermore, the acting is below average: the characters are rather two dimensional and unconvincing. Certain ad-libbed comments like: “We’re going to do some audience participation now”, actually creates an awkwardness that wouldn’t have been there if it hadn’t had been said.
Saying that, there are one or two positives. The eclectic dance and physical theatre choreography is executed with precision mostly and fits fairly well into the narrative. The dancing is where the energy and commitment in the show can be seen – but even then it’s not fully consistent. Dance tricks such as the headspin and windmill are masterly.
The way the production is staged is unusual. The projection screen (showing the computer game graphics) and the set is too far forward on the Quays Theatre stage. As a result, it becomes a compact space to dance in. Overall: The Demon Barbers performance and Breaking Tradition’s movement and dance is strong, but it’s their script, acting, and misunderstanding of family theatre that lets the whole event down.
Reviewed on: 23rd September 2018.