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In Search of Dinozord review at the Place, London – ‘haunting and harrowing’

Faustin Linyekula in In Search of Dinozord at the Place, London. Photo: Steve Gunther
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Congolese dancer-choreographer Faustin Linyekula’s In Search of Dinozord is diffuse and difficult; a combination of movement, spoken word and song that together attest to the disturbing political and personal realities of life in a country where “the hills smell of war” and “you can’t expect a bowl of milk a day.”

The show, Linyekula tells us, was made as a kind of grave for a friend who died of plague, a burgeoning writer whose scraps of letters and documents spill from a red tin trunk. Scored by fragments of Mozart’s Requiem, it’s a piece fuelled by loss and lament, where even one of the actors – Antoine Vumilia Muhindo – is described as a living ghost, back from the dead, an escapee from a Kinshasa penitentiary where he faced execution for a dabbling in revolutionary politics as a student.

Muhindo’s memoirs – extracts of which are projected onto a wooden screen – are both incomprehensibly harrowing and elegantly lyrical, infused with a resonant poetry that interrogates the very existence of its own beauty. He has, after all, witnessed the torture of a child soldier (“small as Tom Thumb and tough as a rock…the rock crumbled”), seen a newborn baby thrown against a wall, smelled roasting human flesh. “I saw it all, but history will forget it.”

A trio of dancers form a writhing ball; upright, they’re drawn into convulsions, their torsos wrenched back, fingers clawed. Agonised spasms morph into winding groin-based grooves, reminiscent of Congolese Ndombolo dance, but their faces remain blank, joyless.

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Haunting, harrowing dance-theatre tackles Congo's violent history