Mark Bruce’s Return to Heaven delves into the imagery of dreams and nightmares, the ostensive journey of its protagonists, former Rambert dancer Dane Hurst and Mark Bruce Company stalwart Eleanor Duval, but a pretext for an assembly of scenes that perhaps symbolise their internal journey, but in turn prompt our own.
Mark Bruce is one of Britain’s foremost creators of dance-theatre, his inventiveness seemingly inexhaustible, as he’s shown in his treatment of subjects like Dracula, The Odyssey and Macbeth, to mention but a few of his most recent works. He is also a musician, and Return to Heaven features some of his numbers.
Return to Heaven starts with Dane Hurst downstage left sitting at a desk and writing. His memoirs perhaps? An account of a fantastic journey? The sound score of twittering birds slowly amplifies into the nocturnal sounds of the jungle, a chorus of insects and unidentified noises. Slowly and gently Hurst picks up a large butterfly which had been sitting on his desk lamp. It’s as if the butterfly – a theme which is to recur through the piece – unlocks his memories.
The memories – if indeed that’s what they are – unfold in a series of scenes separated by brief blackouts, during which the set adapts to what comes next. Phil Eddolls’ set, a rising barren stretch of land, in which stands a dead tree, set against a dark sky, changes by virtue of a few props and Guy Hoare’s skilful lighting.
In one particularly spine-tingling scene, a hole in the land reveals a monstrous black spider, whose hairy legs wrap around Eleanor Duval, slowly and inexorably dragging her underground. It's the stuff of your worst nightmares
And yet in a dreamy scene Duval and Hurst sit drinking at a makeshift wooden table under a tropical sky, while a young couple dance a blissful slow to the dulcet tones of Harry Belafonte singing Island in the Sun.
An astronaut is launched into space and lands in ancient Egypt, where he is received by the jackal-headed Anubis, god of the afterlife. And Duval unlocks a large hieroglyph-covered chest with a key given to her earlier by a dancer kitted out as a 50s theatre usherette in a short skirt, matching little hat, carrying a large tray of goodies.
As well as Hurst and Duval, the cast includes Jordi Calpe Serrats, Carina Howard, Sharol Mackenzie and Christopher Thomas, wonderful dancers all.
And so, provided you are prepared to go on a ride with Mark Bruce Company, without a compass and in absolute faith, you will enjoy Return to Heaven.
|What||Mark Bruce Company, Return to Heaven review|
|Where||Wilton's Music Hall, 1 Graces Alley, London, E1 8JB | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Tower Hill (underground)|
28 Feb 20 – 14 Mar 20, 19:30 Dur.: 1 hour 45 mins approx inc one interval
|Price||£18-£28 (concessions available)|
|Website||Click here to book|