The Roof

Theatre , Outdoor theatres
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • 2 out of 5 stars
(3 user reviews)
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© Helen Maybanks
© Helen Maybanks
© Helen Maybanks
© Helen Maybanks
© Helen Maybanks
© Helen Maybanks
© Helen Maybanks
© Helen Maybanks
© Helen Maybanks
© Helen Maybanks

Stoners, gamers and stoned gamers will totally dig this whimsical dance-theatre show, presented in a car park outside the National Theatre as part of LIFT 2014. Folks who didn’t grow up taking bleary turns on ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ or ‘Super Mario Bros’ or whatever young people play these days may wonder what the hell is going on.

‘The Roof’ is the third collaboration between choreographer Frauke Requardt and theatre-maker David Rosenberg (of Shunt fame). It shares a fair chunk of DNA with the duo’s previous collaborations ‘Electric Hotel’ and ‘Motor Show’, insofar as it takes place in the open air, late at night, with audience members wearing headphones so that some elaborate sound design can bring them closer to the relatively distant action.

Put simply, ‘The Roof’ is a live version of an old-fashioned sideways-scrolling platform game. Stood on the ground, the audience is surrounded by an elevated rooftop set, which a faintly gormless-looking ‘avatar’ (an athletic chap in a silly costume) traverses, slowly and jerkily at first, but with increasing speed and skill, building up to some genuinely impressive feats of free-running.

The show is based on repetition – basically it’s the avatar doing circuits of the set for an hour. But there’s variation within that: the sinister psychedelic monsters he has to kill change each time; new developments occur in the Lynchian nightclub the avatar visits in between ‘levels’; a charmingly shambolic series of original songs by Tim Price play through our headphones; there are subtle suggestions that away from the monster killing, the avatar is slowly losing his marbles, that possibly this whole game is an allegory for an unseen player’s disintegrating home life.

It looks great, in an ironically retro way, and buoyed by a couple of beers, a high tolerance for whimsy and fond memories of the crappy computer games of the ’80s, I found ‘The Roof’ a charming if insubstantial night. But it’s unquestionably diminishing returns after the fantastic ‘Electric Hotel’, and if you’re not nostalgic for the pixelated worlds the show homages, you may find yourself wanting to jump off fairly sharpish.

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Average User Rating

2.3 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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4 people listening
Simon K

This is the worst thing I've ever seen in my life. Seriously, it's hilariously bad, pretentiously weird, repetitive and contains zero narrative, plus whilst it's aimed at the video gaming generation, neither of the creators are fans of video games themselves and it absolutely shows. 

Rebecca M must surely work for the show as no sane person could like this... 

Rebecca M

I saw this piece in preview and was stunned, moved, intrigued, entertained by it. It uses the retro video game form, yes, sure, but what is weird about the negative reviews is the lack of analysis. The video game was beautifully linked to the idea of your life as a digital game, the journey of the hero in a contactless world, the piece disturbing, existential, dystopic and addictive. The sound design is quite brilliant, but the choreography, design, structure - it was a fabulous piece of performance. Complaints about repetition are quite jaw-droppingly inane - its based on a video game! But the 'repetition' involved narrative development along with a lot of humour. This is such an interesting show, ignore the reviews and see it if you can.

Mirkle A

If this is the jewel in the crown of this year's LIFT, the crown's got considerably tarnished since the heights of The Tower Project for example. It takes a peculiar amount of effort to make parkour boring. The binaural technology is completely wasted. Only true thing in the blurb above is that the bar is certainly a bonus.