Sunday, January 29, 2012

Haunting accordion and a nightclub setting hung with glamorous costumes greeted us at the Rondo Theatre as Rogue Theatre presented their current touring show The Dancer and the Devil but even as glittering hostess Laverna welcomed us - with chocolates - the black&white photographs scattered around the auditorium like lost memorabilia were already stirring unease... allure and menace are twin themes of the show. Songs, dances and stories all blend beauty and erotica with terror. The shadow of the holocaust is there from the start but this is not a linear drama, more a dream sequence in which dark psychological insights from fairy tales, Sondheim-style, mingle with historical and contemporary cultural displacements. Abandonment, addiction and abuse surge through the sensuous cabaret set-pieces, and macabre violence repeatedly intrudes in the midnight world of the Lounge Limbo.
This series of gems is very nearly a fantastic show, except for the misjudged inclusion of a lengthy audience-participation 'quiz show' which snapped the mesmeric tension and undermined the compelling theatricality. Omitting this, and the interval, would have ensured an extraordinary emotional journey for everyone in the audience, but a spell like that once broken is hard to cast again. Nevertheless this immensely talented team sent us out into the winter night illuminated by gorgeous visuals and haunting score. All seven performers were superb, but musicians Julian Gaskell & Lauren Vandike deserve special mention.
And how refreshing it is to have Rondo Theatre in Bath as a friendly and delightfully atmospheric alternative to the big theatre in the city centre - check out their season for more excellent touring shows.

No comments: