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Return to Heaven

“Frustrating, shlocky dance theatre”

Mark Bruce’s Return to Heaven is more shlock than genuine horror. Bruce is practised in murky dread – his dance-theatre take on Macbeth was a genuinely grisly treat. But here he’s unhooked from narrative structure and the result is a freewheeling fest of silliness in which a fine cast of dancers appears frustratingly underused. The futz to dance ratio is high.

Dane Hurst and Eleanor Duval play adventurers in an unspecified land: he contemplates a skull on an overturned crate (as you do), she lurks languidly beneath a mosquito net. It’s never a good sign when a blank-faced scientist in a lab coat and a pair of prerequisite specs surveys the scene with a clipboard, Westworld-style. Is it really all an experiment?

The piece strains for surreal profundity, but the clichés pile up against the shrieking Hitchcock strings: a squirming, creeping physical language of contagion infects the couple’s duet before she’s pulled beneath the spidery roots of a tree by some bulbous, tentacled creature. Some wild thrashing for the ensemble ensues, as Duval reappears with fangs, blood trailing from her gaping mouth.

In the second act, proceedings become simultaneously weirder and more tedious as Duval crunches on her companion’s head and the scientist – also sporting fangs – sticks an astronaut’s helmet onto Hurst. Naturally, he ends up in ancient Egypt, where a bloke in a mask portentously pops some entrails in a pot. The dancers give it their all and there are some briefly lyrical sections, but they’re on a thankless quest.

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Production Details
Production nameReturn to Heaven
VenueWilton's Music Hall
StartsFebruary 28, 2020
EndsMarch 14, 2020
Running time1hr 45mins
DirectorMark Bruce
ChoreographerMark Bruce
Set designerPhil Eddolls
Costume designerDorothée Brodrück
Lighting designerGuy Hoare
Sound designerChris Samuels, Mark Bruce
CastCarina Howard, Christopher Thomas, Dane Hurst, Eleanor Duval, Jordi Calpe-Serrats, Sharol Mackenzie
Stage managerDean Sudron
ProducerMark Bruce Company
VerdictMark Bruce's frustrating and often silly dance-theatre piece underuses a talented cast
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Anna Winter

Anna Winter

Anna Winter

Anna Winter

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