Running on Empty

Theatre, Experimental
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'Running On Empty'


'Running On Empty'


'Running On Empty'


'Running On Empty'

Q: What do you get if you cross two contemporary dancers with a playwright, a Royal Court director, a choreographer, a songwriter, a designer and a one-man band? A: Too many cooks.

Dubya-tee-eff, Time Outers. Dubya-tee-eff indeed. This bizarre cross-disciplinary concoction, instigated by Antonia Grove’s dance theatre company Probe, never really entwines its various performance languages and totally fails to cohere. I had to consult the press release afterwards to work out what I’d just seen. Apparently, ‘Running on Empty’ is ‘the story of Man, woman and their repeated collision over time, travelling through dreams, fears and memory’.

To me, it looked like a series of half-danced animal impressions set to a spirit-walk soundtrack and interspersed with a long list of rhetorical questions. And I promise you I’m not exaggerating for comic effect. There’s a bit about drowning and a lot about dreaming, but mostly it’s just vaguely existential pyschobabble. (‘This is the dreamspace. This is the dreamspace.’)

A little rebellion of tentative, half-suppressed titters started after around half an hour – roundabout the ‘otter and a trout’ sequence – and grew into loud, unashamed giggles by the time they were trumpeting like elephants.

The best one can say is that it’s atmospheric, with Fabrice Serafino’s s colour-smudged floor and Scott Smith’s mirage-like music – woozy one-note oboes and soft-focus finger piano – sitting well together. But that’s utterly punctured by pretension. Brad Birch – a talented playwright – seems to have mistaken a list of anxieties (‘Is this it? Did I miss something? Is it too late?’) for a performance text, the choreography is blandly attractive and director Jo McInnes can’t steer it away from stoned meaninglessness.

By: Matt Trueman


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