Sara Veale

An awesome and hilarious display: Rambert’s Rooms reviewed

Plus: an interlude set to ‘Like a Prayer’ was the surprise highlight of ten new dance films

Awesome feet: Guillaume Quéau, Alex Soulliere, Aishwarya Raut and Max Day in Jo Stromgren’s Rooms for Rambert. Credit: Camilla Greenwell

Social distancing continues to put the kibosh on large-scale productions, but Jo Stromgren has a nifty workaround in Rooms, which sees Rambert’s 17 dancers tackle 100 characters between them, giving the impression of a huge ensemble piece. The new show — part dance, part theatre — remakes the same few rooms over and over to present 36 ‘choreographic miniatures’, each with its own elaborate set-up. Zipping through this funhouse is a trip from the ordinary to the surreal and back again, with glimpses of dinner parties, crime scenes, radio segments, cannabis farms, raves, protests and more. It’s an imaginative feat of staging that’s all the more impressive for being performed and streamed in real time.

Intimations of horror and violence — a dead body here, a suicide attempt there — rub shoulders with blasts of comedy, both daffy (witness a naked Simone Damberg Würtz sneaking out of her lover’s bed when his girlfriend shows up) and black (a delivery guy interrupting a funeral to swap out the urn for the right one). Scenes occasionally lapse into one another, but the composition is loose, with as many blunt shifts as there are winks and callbacks.

The stage hands must have been sweating as hard as the dancers to pull this off

Stromgren threads dance casually across the work, calling on the luscious, muscular brio Rambert does so well. One of the best sequences flits between three shadowy dining rooms in which near-nude dancers ripple like chiaroscuros come alive. Lights flash and limbs cascade. It’s emblematic of the show’s absurdist sensibility that just when the beauty becomes unbearable, one of the groups furnishes a naked baby doll, drawing it into the fold like an extra cast member.

A breakneck montage of sirens and Bollywood scarves rockets us towards a side-splitting finale that loops in every character who’s yet appeared, from cheerleaders to cultists to King Kong.

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