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The Dancer and the Devil at The Winter Gardens for Showzam!

“Welcome to the Lounge Limbo,” Rogue Theatre’s flyer for The Dancer and the Devil begins. It’s a “secret bar, a nightclub hidden in the forest,” where those who have suffered loss or had to run from the past go. In a mixture of cabaret, theatre and dance we were presented with their stories.

The Dancer and the Devil at Showzam 2013
The Dancer and the Devil at Showzam 2013

There was Cupcakes, the murdering master-baker – despite which she had to be admired with a theme song entitled Creme Brulee – and a marvellously macabre telling of her tale with a mixing bow.ย  She was played by Becky Bordeaux who’s been a clown, a mermaid and a compere in other productions.

Ruby is a doomed dancer, ably brought to life by Clare Meardon who herself worked for a stint performing the Can Can in Montmartre, Paris, which is arguably the archetypical home of such cabaret as we were invited to watch here.ย  She no doubt brought her experiences there to Rogue Theatre, as all the performers did in an ensemble piece developed with the cast.

The title figure was the dancer Celeste (Kylie Sullivan), running from war and finding a place to bury memories at the Lounge Limbo. Alongside the other performers, Kylie had demanding physical theatre to do, particularly dancing with compere Ollie Oakenshield, the Rogue’s company director playing Jacob. It was through their relationship that we learnt of the memories held by suitcases the cast had on stage.

Other members of the cast included Minue (Lauren Vandyke) “who will be whoever you want her to be,” Laverna (Angelina Boscarelli) who took part addressing the audience largely off stage and the principal musician Ben Sutcliffe.

The Dancer and the Devil at Showzam 2013
The Dancer and the Devil at Showzam 2013

The show was centred on some big themes such as memory; how it changes and adapts, might stay hidden or reveal itself and what this does to the person who carries such thoughts with them. On occasions I felt that such things escaped the clarity that might have been brought, the first half ending with a rather protracted ‘audience participation’ that did not seem to advance the story, for example.

In the second half the secrets did come to the fore and there was some revelation of that shared between Celeste and Jacob (I’ll not say exactly how, I hope you’re encouraged to seek out the show). These themes run through mainstream theatre where the resurfacing of memory informs writers from Ibsen to Miller and are perhaps most closely mirrored in the figures from film noir with their murky pasts infecting their present. Though well investigated in these genres the idea of memory, stories, nightclubs and those in such places eternally fascinates and this was a good exploration of such ideas. One particularly good one was on entering the Pavillion at the Winter Gardens. Its long curving entrance was filled with objects huddling around lights and candles – small islands of isolated objects of memory to transport you into the mood for the show. Well worth looking out for.

 

The Rogue Theatre’s tour dates can be found on their website.

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