Refugees of the Septic Heart – Tom Dale Company: Laban Theatre, London, 20 April 2013

Tanks for the memories

Tom Dale's dancers really go to town when playing Twister.

Tom Dale’s dancers really go to town when playing Twister. Photo by Atherton-Chiellino

Visually, Nottingham-based Tom Dale Company’s Refugees of the Septic Heart is stunning. An assortment of columns, steps, screens and a large flat disc have Barret Hodgson’s digital images plastered all over them to mind-bending effect. Stars twirl and dance, waterfalls pour down the side of office windows and Mondrian-like blocks of solid colours all come and go for the pleasure of the eyes.

Lurking in all the captivating patterns of light was some decent-based choreography and some excellent dancing but none of it really tied together to make a cohesive whole. The problem was that an apocalyptic story of monkeys whose time on Earth was up was being told through beat poetry but Tom Dale’s choreography and Hodgson’s digital imagery rarely partook in the narrative. Thus we were left with 6 people moving about in front of mostly unrelated animation with Shakleton’s electronic sound-scape off doing its own thing as well.

The dancing featured some great lifts and plenty of impressive hurtling about on the floor but there were also too many empty attempts at profound gestures and postures to give Refugees of the Septic Heart the gravitas it was searching for. The 6 performers worked well together and Hugh Stainer really stood out with a forceful solo laced with hip-hop and street dance.

The final sequence, a superbly co-ordinated ensemble piece where the entire company lunged about the stage in great swathes of explosive sound and light was brilliant. It was one of the few moments where the visuals, choreography and sound-scape all came together, belatedly revealing the potential that lay in the piece.

Gerard Davis

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