Review: Mark Bruce in Sea of Bones at The Place

Performance: 18 & 19 May 07
Reviewed by Lindsey Clarke - Friday 25 May 2007

Friday 18 May

Sea of Bones is mired in primeval blue goo and clouded with dry ice. There’s no mistaking that this is a dream world where time, sense and reality warp and love and horror are present in equal measure. Themes and characters run through the piece like stitches, pinning together through fragments, figments and songs.

Emerging from the dry ice, a male soloist is spun all over the stage by the nervy energy of a rock track with throwaway virtuosity and awesome precision. Almost danced to his death, he is joined by his psychotic, female counterpart, acting the flamboyant, mad queen and forcing him up an aisle or red carpet.

Next up: zombies in woad, brandishing severed heads. Reality is utterly shredded. They offer a promiscuous, heartless display of cowgirl pole dancing and dry humping, supervised by a goat skull figure with a staff. This menagerie of grotesques impinge on one innocent’s consciousness.

In utter contrast, two time-crossed couples perform complementary lush and tender duets, both equally gripping in their beauty, fluidity, and power. Underpinned by the ballroom, Bruce sends the lovers whirling and the longing and romance, made more poignant by the evocation of the war era and ever present threat of separation and sorrow, are palpable. Nick Cave’s Sweetheart Come is a heartbreaking accompaniment.

Back after the interval, we’re unremittingly in the underworld and exploring Orpheus and his lyre, courtesy of Nick Cave again. The lyre becomes an irresistible rock guitar that sends the women wild; they are abandoned harpies and she-devils and totally wonderful.

There are moments when one wonders why Mark Bruce doesn’t sell his soul and make pop videos for MTV. The prolonged tableau of the five female dancers standing across the front of the stage, gazing questioningly, challengingly and blankly into the audience while pulsing their wrists to the driving rock beat, every fibre exuding edge and attitude, was just great. Their intermittent diversions, flinging away from the front before regaining their pulsing composure, were riveting.

Sea of Bones concludes with an odd but affecting wedding procession amongst dead leaves. An unsatisfactory ending but then, dreams are often confusing and inconclusive. It’s an intriguing, exciting and multi layered piece that also manages to be accessible and enjoyable. Mark Bruce knows seedy glamour and the romance of the tortured soul and here presents choreography that explores that spectrum, in a bubble of dream and myth and metaphor, brilliantly.

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