So it is with Phantoms, the new work that provides the umbrella name for his Mark Bruce Company's latest triple bill. A succession of dark vignettes, some nightmarish, others simply intriguing, all suffused with a sense of menace, Phantoms is propelled by music composed and performed by Mark Bruce himself, his guitar playing as haunting as his deep baritone, at times reminiscent of Nick Cave. It is shaped by Bruce’s demanding, very physical, in-your-face choreography, brilliantly executed by his five-strong company.
Mark Bruce’s admitted influences come to the fore in this intensely cinematic piece: David Lynch’s aesthetic is present; Phil Eddolls's set, suggestive of a desert landscape under a baleful moon with the outlines of a city in the background, speaks of Bruce's interest in American road movies. Guy Hoare’s lighting is moodily atmospheric throughout.
As in a nightmare with its own internal logic, his dancers evoke vaguely familiar characters and archetypes: a woman sports stiff, black wings; a slavering wolf comes on at intervals, his hunched frenetic prancing ominous. And in the middle of all this, a man and woman (the mesmerising Jonathan Goddard and Eleanor Duval) dance a prolonged love duet, reprised in a final scene that speaks, perhaps, of redemption.
Phantoms is preceded by two shorter pieces, Green Apples, created in 2006, and Folk Tales, a new work.
Green Apples is a duet set to muscular music by White Stripes. Danced entirely within a rope circle, it loosely speaks of two bodies thrown together within a confined space.
Bryony Harrison and Christopher Thomas, both thrilling dancers, start by dancing tantalisingly close, but never touching. In the second song their dancing becomes ferocious wrestling, each body trying to overcome the other; but the third, all fury spent, their duet is no longer antagonistic; and they end side by side looking away from each other.
Folk Tales is a new work fed by Marc Bruce’s fascination with the music of folk guitarist Martin Simpson. It’s set to a series of seven folk songs, with his choreography harnessing the various influences present in Simpson’s guitar technique. It starts with an almost pure folk number, performed by the impish Carina Howard, who waves a blue hankie and blows us kisses even as she performs an intricate combination of balletic entrechats and folksy hops.
The following songs, all to recorded music by Martin Simpson, probe a variety of moods from jolly (Vaughan’s Jig) to sinister (Beaulampkin), ending with the return of Carina Howard's lively dance.
Phantoms is not a programme for the cold rational mind; rather, it invites you to invest your own imagination and offers ample rewards if you do.
Read our interview with Mark Bruce here.
|What||Mark Bruce Company, Phantoms review|
|Where||Wilton's Music Hall, 1 Graces Alley, London, E1 8JB | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Tower Hill (underground)|
24 Feb 22 – 05 Mar 22, 19:30 Sat mats 14:30 Dur.: 1 hour 20 mins + interval
|Website||Click here to book|