Mark Bruce Company
Made in Heaven
London, Wilton’s Music Hall
31 May 2012
My goodness what a fabulously weird and wonderful night Made in Heaven proved. Like a vivid dream you recall snatches of a mad roller-coaster ride where the whole is totally unfathomable as any kind of coherent story or message about life, the universe, or anything really. Just to add to the completely surreal nature of the night it’s the only time I’ve been hit by a shark in the theatre (*).
There is dance here as an underpinning, good dance, too, that effortlessly flows and looks mighty pretty even when depicting nightmare horrors, but it’s the picture images of those horrors and their brighter/funnier counterpoints that linger and make you appreciate Bruce’s dramatic chops. It starts with a girl, Prairie Girl, going to sleep by a boat on the bayou – there is a Southern US feel throughout, with dark-sunglasses-wearing Sheriffs, a Sailor, a Savage Girl and Kid, and a Nun character (the Chief Sheriff dressed up). And there is also a Mermaid and shark.
The soundtrack to this wild trip features some 20 numbers varying from Clair De Lune, Chopin, Sonic Youth, The Kills, through to Lead Belly, Leonard Cohen and Harry Belafonte. Some of the cameos: the mermaid caught and having her tail bloodily hacked off; the male transvestite Nun not being able to start the outboard motor on the boat and endless, endless, tugging at the start cord; the Chief, testosterone fuelled macho as hell, settling down for an afternoon of fishing with a child’s-play rod; the nun’s decapitation by the shark (and the head then rolling all around the stage) and the best evocation of sex I think I’ve ever seen on the dance stage as Prairie Girl and Sailor get at it to The Kills ‘Baby Says‘.
Although not numerous the sets and props were rather special too – a real 19th century feel to them, particularly appropriate given the age of Wilton’s Music Hall – a gem of a place. The sea was created by a huge expanse of blue silk, sometimes tranquil and sometimes storm-tossed (animated by the dancers), but top billing inevitably goes to the huge shark puppet that really looked like it could swim and with cavernous articulated jaws.
All up 70 minutes of well-judged visual fun – you wake up and think “Phew – that was a Walk on the Wild Side“. Made in Heaven, Mark Bruce and his dancers come most recommended.
(*) Totally unintentional – I was in the front row when the shark swam past and a sudden turn had its tail in my face – great fun!