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Tesseract review at Barbican Theatre, London – ‘an onslaught of self-indulgence’

Cori Kresge in Tesseract at Barbican Theatre, London. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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This theoretically involved but theatrically impotent creation is the result of a collaboration between filmmaker Charles Atlas and choreographers Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Riener, both formerly of the Merce Cunningham dance company.

It’s made up of a film, for which the audience is given heavy-duty 3D specs, and a dance piece in which the live movement is projected onto a scrim by a man in a pink cloak and a Steadicam.

The former is an odd confection that appears to owe much to the questionable aesthetics of US filmmaker Neil Breen. It only makes an interesting use of the medium when the dancers appear to reach over the auditorium or when proceedings become truly kaleidoscopic, with limbs melding into their refracted opposites in a haze of bold colour.

Otherwise, these capable performers prance, squat and shuffle across a studio floor amid flat TV lighting and dry ice, decked out in a variety of oompa loompa wigs and sub-Bowie lycra. Most egregious is the Mars sequence, with its cheap green-screened space station and an ensemble clad in Wotsit-orange leotards complete with various structural 3D appendages, like an inexplicably oblong goitre and dangling conical growth.

The live half of the show is a turgid exercise in arid movement and distracting camerawork, save for a radiantly simple section in which four dancers delineate a square with seven synchronised steps.

Tesseract is a production bound up with pretension, straining towards po-faced notions of sci-fi “dimensionality”, “imagined architectures” and “interstitial spaces.” It’s an onslaught of self-indulgence that feels emotionally moribund and horribly interminable.

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Pretentious combination of poorly-executed film and bloodless, abstract dance