DeadClub™, The Place

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by guest critic Archie Whyld

Co-directors Frauke Requardt and David Rosenberg have created a piece of theatre which might be the closest I have ever felt to being in a dream whilst awake and not under the influence of psychoactive drugs.

The audience are ushered around a square, black and white Lynchian-striped stage which sits at chest height, and so we are all up close with an excellent view – wearing pointy black and white stripy hats.

Requardt and Rosenberg’s premise is that death becomes us all, and so why not have a light-hearted look at it? And whilst death might underpin the piece, it is the notion that
memory is unreliable, existence is absurd and meaningless, but also rare and fragile, which lie at the heart of this stunning piece of dance-come-theatre.

Dead birds fall, pianos and microphones ascend, dancers emerge and melt into the floor – and they really do melt, like only skilled dancers can melt into a floor. In fact, five dancers make up the cast and they swing upon the choreographic pendulum from upbeat, humorous jazzy numbers to dark, industrial, ominous noise as they march the periphery of the stage in pursuit of a man in tatty underpants.

The audience are invited to think upon the nature of randomness, as a white roulette-like light whips around the edge of the stage, landing upon an individual who is briefly given the spotlight. For poor (or lucky) Alex from Punchdrunk Theatre, the spotlight meant hearing her eulogy from the man in underpants.

The design is a stylish, visual feast, notably for the colour combinations of greys and mint greens, pink and yellow. This palette is offset by the stripes and further complimented by sparse and well-placed props, which range from tiny figures whom are bestowed their own characters by way of voice over, to a very realistic looking dead deer: the classic emblem of fragility, beauty and death.

The piece culminates in a progression from the semi-clad man being pursued by what could be his Victorian ancestry, as if to communicate his inescapable genetic past, to a 1960s dance off complete with turtlenecks. As the ’60s jives gently descend into paranoia, there is an ominous, gut wrenching sound, reminiscent of The Cherry Orchard’s breaking string. It signifies melancholy, nostalgia, an uneasy foreboding, the inescapable and oppressive passing of time, a reminder of our soon-to-be return to dust. The pink, fluffy balls continue to randomly roam: back and forth, back and forth.

DeadClub™ is accomplished Theatre of the Absurd, it is truthful and tender, it is beautiful and brutal.

DeadClub™ runs through 30 September.

The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.

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