Robert Tanitch reviews Rambert’s Death Trap at Sadler’s Wells Theatre.

Robert Tanitch reviews Rambert’s Death Trap at Sadler’s Wells Theatre.

Death Trap, billed as a meta dance comedy, is a double-bill devised and directed by Ben Duke. There’s a lot of talk. There’s too much talk; and not enough dance.

The programme opens with Cerberus, a bitter sweet musing on myth and mortality. Cerberus, the three-headed dog that guards the gate of the Underworld and prevents the dead from leaving, is not visible but his presence is felt.

The dancers keep crossing and recrossing the stage from left (Birth entrance) to right (Death exit) in more and more different ways. They walk, run, race, crawl, stumble; they twist and turn and struggle; they are carried, pushed, shoved and dragged; they are tied to a rope, like mountaineers or like slaves, and pulled tight. The dancers cross singly, in pairs and en masse. Their unstoppable march to death is accompanied by a pulsating drum beat.

Cerberus, which premiered in 2022, is very Pina Bausch. Goat, the second piece, which premiered in 2017 and is inspired by the music and spirit of Nina Simone, is very Rite of Spring.

Sheree DuBois sings Simone’s iconic songs including “Feelings”, “Feeling Good” and “Ain’t Got No, I Got Life”. The songs give the piece its emotional force.

The goat (played by a dancer with a goat mask) is to be sacrificed. He is interviewed by an intrusive and irritating TV presenter who is accompanied by a cameraman. The parody of crass questions and pretentious answers about the pleasure and the pain of performing aren’t funny enough. Asked what he has to do, the dancer replies, ‘I have to dance myself to death. I have not done it before.’ His energetic solo is followed by a resurrection duet.

Rambert’s Death Trap will visit Southampton, Aberdeen, Wales Millenium Centre, Salford and Newcastle in 2024. For more information follow this link.

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