Review: Frauke Requardt and David Rosenberg - The Roof - Doon Street carpark

Performance: 22 May - 28 June 2014
Reviewed by Lara Hayward - Tuesday 17 June 2014

'The Roof'. Photo: Helen Maybanks

Bruce Lee’s saying “Man must constantly exceed his level” is a very deliberate choice as part of the intro text to The Roof (playing at Doon Street Car Park as part of the LIFT Festival until 28 June). It streams into our ears through supplied headphones, all part and parcel of Frauke Requardt and David Rosenberg’s latest immersive work, produced by Fuel. They’ve taken Lee’s words literally this time, directing The Roof’s main protagonist in the piece forwards through the levels of their subversive game.

Our hero, clad in retro motor racing gear, emerges from a door ready to take on Level 1. Automatically losing his first of three lives after taking a leap across a gap, he learns, develops and grows – working his way through various concrete obstacles, collecting life-giving giant rubber ducks, sparring with the Player 1 (a very swift Si Rawlinson who looks like he could give Lee a run for his money) whilst encountering various Donnie Darko-esque characters along the way – think faceless bunnies, majorettes, and sharp-suited monsters with popcorn and prism shaped neon heads.

In a sort-of love story, he visits a one stop shop to collect useful objects from a sultry Janina Rajakangas. Similarly clad in driver’s suit she is part of the narrative, broadcasting breathily from the shop which doubles as ‘Radio Supermoon’. It’s a testament to Rajakangas that she manages to sound sexy whilst saying things like “From the shitpipe of unicorns, this is Radio Supermoon”. Yes, really.

The Roof aims to draw parallels between the ‘game of life’ that we are all playing and video-gaming, only this user experience allows the audience to trade traditional seats with would-be competitors by placing us in the middle of Jon Bausor’s urban gladiatorial set. All the action takes place above and around us as we watch on from the ground below. An interactive Super Mario minus the plumbing and moustaches, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the ‘magic’ mushroom element has been retained such is the weirdness that plays out. It sometimes work, but often doesn’t, some sequences drawn out too far so that the main character can return to his starting position.

That said, the score and music are particularly effective – the audience all turn collectively as we hear someone from behind, only to realise that this is the trippy effect of the clever sound production. We do “leave our useless bodies behind” as instructed by the narrator. It is only our sight and hearing that we need. So good is Dave Price’s soundtrack that I wish the performance would end with a silent disco-esque finale. I’m still humming along a week later.

The performances are also perfectly timed to the music and narrative. Danilo Caruso in particular, should be given credit for his incredible ability to avatar it up.

The set works for me too. It’s like an extension of the nearby Southbank skatepark – cool colours and space invader stencils against gritty concrete. As lasers project onto the buildings around us and neighbouring Rambert’s shiny new sign beams down from above, the surrounding city is brought into The Roof. Even the people watching from neighbouring towers seem silhouetted into the game.

The Roof is surreal to say the least, and entertaining in its experimentality, but I’m unfortunately left with the feeling that it was missing something. It seemed that most of the audience were all waiting for something bigger, bolder and better to happen. But perhaps this was Requardt and Rosenberg’s intention. After all, aren’t most of us contending with that very issue in our quest through life?

Continues until 28 June

Photos: Helen Maybanks

Lara Hayward is a freelance dance, sport and travel writer. Find her on Twitter @auspiciouspixie

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