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REVIEW: Rambert: Death Trap at Newcastle Theatre Royal

Rambert: Death Trap

Newcastle Theatre Royal

Until Thursday 25 April 2024

A pair of dance pieces around the topic of death may not sound like a happy night at the theatre but both were black comedies that were accessible to both dance fans and those new to the format. Whilst they are both different, Cerberus and Goat bring together an interesting night at the Theatre Royal this week.

They said "A meta dance comedy, full of the turbulence of life and death. Darkly funny and packed with originality."

Normally with some dance shows you watch people frantically twisting and turning and wonder what on Earth is going on. It looks all very physical but is there a story there? Recently I have noticed a trend in which much more narrative is offered and the dance may be secondary to the story rather than the other way around. As someone who is in no way an expert in things "dance" I must admit preferring to knowing something behind the production without having to attend an after show talk!

So the show begins... The light are on and we think we are getting a regular message about mobile phones, but no - hang on - there is a joke in there. Then the lights drop - putting the whole venue in darkness - reducing our senses so all we hear is the voice. Cerberus is about life and death. They enter the stage on one side - birth - and die on the other side as they leave the stage. In between is a lifetime. We are asked to wait as the voice prepares for birth. She then appears tied to a rope - struggling across the stage. Romarna Campbell accompanies the movement on their drum kit. But this is a black comedy and, in an almost Play Goes Wrong Moment, a member of crew on the other end of the rope enters the stage.

What follows includes a wake and two really beautiful pieces of music with the dancing. I last heard the Hungarian folk song when Freddie Mercury sang it when his last tour with Queen visited that country. The other was a showcase for the beautifully pure voice of Caroline Jaya-Ratnam. It was lush.

Meanwhile various dancers dance across the stage as the original one had, sometimes attached to rope - others as free individuals. The cascading effect of the passing of people, along with the music is mesmerising.

But before too long (after just 30 minutes) it is over and the audience are given the chance to reflect at the interval.

There is a real chance in the second performance. The set has changed from the blackened floor surrounded by curtains to, what the Americans call, "Town Hall".

A video camera is pointed at first at the audience who react as they see themselves on a screen. This is more reminiscent of a baseball game - with one couple even deciding to kiss when they were in the spotlight. On stage stuff is being set up for a meeting.

I'm not always a fan when cameras are used but this one is different as a presenter appears to narrate the town hall proceedings on live television, thus given the camera a purpose. Quickly the presenter starts to get in the way of the action and this interference leads to a number of laughs for the audience. The camera also will give a different perspective without being intrusive.

So Goat, we are quickly told, is about a meeting taking place after something bad has happened. No longer is a goat sacrificed though - it will be a participant. This revelation seems to go over the presenters head as the group start to dance.

This section is inspired by the music of Nina Simone. We have a live band on stage which works well visually. Unfortunately the singer was ill on opening night - but in true "the show must go on" fashion, her voice was heard on a pre-recorded track.

No spoilers of course - but Goat was a piece that my companion and I chewing over silently as went went home - there's a fair bit to think about.

Ben Duke, who devised and directed the two stories has pulled together a show that is not afraid to talk. This gives greater meaning to the dancing as it has purpose. The ensemble is wonderfully tight and action flows in a thoughtful and entertaining way. 

Review: Stephen Oliver

Photo: Camilla Greenwell


Rambert: Death Trap plays Newcastle Theatre Royal Wednesday 24 & Thursday 25 April 2024. Tickets can be purchased at or from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 0191 232 7010.

This Town Soundtrack Clear Vinyl + CD from our affiliates Townsend Music: LINK

This Town Soundtrack Clear Vinyl + CD from our affiliates Townsend Music: LINK


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