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Puzzle Creature review at the Place, London – ‘imaginatively designed’

Carys Staton and Luke Crook in Puzzle Creature at the Place, London. Photo: Tom Schumann
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The audience are gathered inside an inflatable semi-transparent tent, somewhere between a greenhouse (it’s hot) and an enormous chrysalis. White mesh moulds of body parts are suspended mid-air. Beneath them, three dancers twist their bodies into contorted shapes, mirroring the fragmented parts above.

Puzzle Creature, by Neon Dance, is billed as an immersive performance, but aside from the opportunity to enter the same space and be in close proximity to the dancers, that experience is limited. The audience remain the observers. While the concept is interesting, its extensive possibilities are never quite fulfilled. Long periods pass where little changes and the gap in which the audience are ushered from the tent to stand outside, abruptly breaks any theatrical illusion. The integration of British and Japanese sign language is however, a welcoming and visually intriguing touch.

The second half is scattered with moments of beauty. The silhouette of a dancer cocooned within the structure presents an embryonic image, at once familiar and alien. Periodically, the dancers stand amidst their barren landscape of billowing plastic and gaze towards the horizon. Gathered at the edge of this lonely, futuristic world, it’s as if the audience are looking upon its last few inhabitants.

In these moments, Puzzle Creature simmers with potential. There’s an array of images and ideas to be played with and the inflatable set is, in itself, an object of wonder – constantly shifting and undulating, it has a presence of its own. If Neon Dance developed these ideas and really pushed the possibilities of the imaginative set design, the company could truly immerse their audience in a unique and wondrous world.

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Verdict
Imaginative design and intriguing concept that’s never fully developed
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