Streamed 8-11 April 2021.
A group of acquaintances, all speaking different languages, pair off amorously when Glenn Miller’s Moonlight Serenade starts up. Another couple are caught in bed when the man’s partner returns home – the other woman escapes with just a short jacket to preserve her modesty and stumbles into a room of synchronised ravers wearing VR headsets. Next door is a group of nervous Hasidic Jews, sent into a spin by the appearance of two women at their window; next door to them are anxious spies monitoring the Jewish men while eating Krispy Kremes…
And so the cavalcade of weird, funny, touching and absurd micro-dramas that made up Jo Strømgren’s Rooms went on. The Norwegian choreographer’s hour-long work tapped ingeniously into our impulse to snoop on others’ activities, a la Hitchcock’s Rear Window. He also seemed to be drawing quite heavily on the style of Swedish film director Roy Andersson, injecting the utterly surreal into the totally banal – done here at whiplash speed (how on earth did they manage to do this live?). The 16 Rambert dancers, flitting manically through costume changes as they embodied 100 characters between them, caught that special Scandi mix of daftness and darkness perfectly, and showed some real comic acting chops, as many scenes were driven more by spoken dialogue than movement.
Hooded figures mysteriously defenestrating themselves gave way to a frantic Rubik’s cube contest; a mourner standing before a loved one’s ashes was interrupted by a courier switching the urns. A woman danced an impassioned fado clutching a Barcelos rooster. King Kong even made an unexpected appearance.
Hints and echoes linked scenes before a glorious, slapstick collision of characters at the climax. A fluid sense of space and Emma Dalesman’s impeccable cinematography maintained the piece’s irresistible momentum – intricate lighting design flipped us through everything from pure horror film to Caravaggio painting. The dancing, when it appeared, was robustly performed, expressive and often affecting, although it would have been good to have a little more. But, really, this was a triumph of ingenuity and good humour from Rambert – an exhilarating live streamed delight.