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DeadClub review at the Place – ‘superbly surreal dance theatre’

Requardt and Rosenberg's Deadclub at The Place, London. Photo: Camilla Greenwell
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With DeadClub, directing duo David Rosenberg and Frauke Requardt leave behind the outdoor spectacles of previous collaborations and move into a suggestive interior space. Amid the gloom of a specially-crafted auditorium in which the audience stand around the stage, the agonies of existence – its peril and precarity – make for magnificently sly and witty dance theatre.

Rosenberg, Requardt and their cast of five create masterfully surreal stage pictures, a rich and riddling subconscious realm over which the spectre of mortality and meaninglessness looms. That contemporary life has been plunged into a post-truth abyss by a coterie of political grotesques peddling ignorance and hate only augments DeadClub’s irresistible force.

The universe’s crushing randomness is translated with a delightfully light touch from the outset. Raffle tickets allot everyone a numbered spot against the stage, around which a spotlight roves to a roulette-wheel rattle.

DeadClub treads Lynchian territory with its own distinctive step: the imperfectly chevron-patterned stage becomes a pregnant surface that belches out fire, pianos and mysterious blasts of steam. There are rumblings and crunchings, unnerving bouts of pitch darkness. Dancers clad in cutesy bows and Mary Janes emerge with elastic stealth from tiny hatches to shimmy to songs about disaster and contamination.

The hoofing group’s jazzy moves become strangely torqued, while a mud-streaked man in tattered underpants wanders amongst them clutching a severed arm. Later he cradles a dying deer among scattered dirt, its dainty legs quiver then hang limp. All of life’s beauty and horror seem condensed into this image. Stunning.

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Superbly surreal dance theatre animated by uncanny energy plays with notions of meaninglessness and memory