Review: Mark Bruce Company - Made in Heaven - Wilton's Music Hall

Performance: 31 May - 2 June 2012
Reviewed by Germaine Cheng - Tuesday 5 June 2012

Mark Bruce Dance Company 'Made in Heaven' Photo: Stephen Berkeley White

Performance reviewed: 31 May 2012

I usually avoid horror films like the plague, but upon entering Wilton’s Music Hall, I feel as though I have stepped right into one. The musty, old-world charm of the world’s oldest surviving music hall is enveloped in a mysterious haze, evoking a salacious, spooky cabaret.

Ominously, a solitary figure – ‘Prairie Girl’ (Eleanor Duval) lies asleep on the shore. In an apparently restless slumber, she tosses and turns, articulately stretching through the heels of her hands and feet. She puts her fists to the ground and arches her back, creating a striking image of anguish and desperation. Then as if electric currents were running through her body, Duval writhes and shivers to chilling effect before awakening with an urgent gasp.

I subconsciously heave a sigh of relief – it seems the action that follows is only a dream. But what a highly vivid and eerie one it is.

Duval is the show’s Dorothy, a wide-eyed, quietly resolute young woman. Her right eye is emblazoned with a star, indicating she is the daughter of the Chief. Rick Bland cuts an imposing figure as ‘Old He/She’ the sheriff of his Alcatraz, complete with a star badge and a Texan accent, proclaiming his captives obsolete and dismissing their dreams of paradise. However, Duval has committed no crime. Undeserving of this depravity, she strives to maintain a shred of hope and her right to dream.

Prairie Girl dreams morbid dreams, ones that even clicking the heels of her ruby slippers won’t stop. Four police officers in patent leather boots and mirrored shades parade around Bland’s Old He/She, like circus assistants in an S&M sideshow. The statuesque, sinewy Cree Barnett Williams portrays a rather tame ‘Savage Girl’, sacrificed in a ritual in which her throat and wrists are slit, following which she dances to her death as blood oozes from her veins. Finally, Duval plays referee to a hockey game in which the Old He/She’s severed head serves as the puck.

The colour blue features prominently in Made in Heaven, in Dorothee Brodrück’s costumes and the cloth which engulfs the stage, transforming it into a raging sea. A mermaid emerges from its depths, preening herself in the sun’s warmth. The sea is also home to a menacing grey shark. As it stealthily navigates past the front row, Wilton’s seems to be plunged into the waters, like the Titanic’s once-vibrant dance halls.

Bruce is an eloquent choreographer, creating a phantasmagorical totalitarian world which seems so distant to our own, he adroitly weaves in themes of brainwashing, fear and denial, exposing how the warped world we inhabit is not dissimilar to the Prairie Girl’s dreamscape.The eclectic soundtrack ranges from vinyl record blues to Debussy’s Clair De Lune, and Bruce’s movement vocabulary similarly reflects that range, encompassing a balletic Fred and Ginger pas de deux and energetic floorwork.

Made in Heaven is a rare dance theatre foray into territory more often explored in film and literature and makes for a truly gripping evening.

Mark Bruce Company tour the UK with Made in Heaven until 1 July

Germaine Cheng took part in this year’s Resolution! Review – The Place’s online magazine which includes reviews of every Resolution! show, by professional dance critics and aspiring writers. She is a final year student at the Rambert School of Ballet & Contemporary Dance.

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