Barbican Theatre, The PIt (*****) – LIFT 2016
Imagine the hypnotic purity of a Pina Bausch, the despair of They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, the American film where exhausted dancers during the American 1932 Depression circle endlessly. Add the musical melancholy of a Jacques Brel type song. Then imagine it all transferred to the context of Europe and Greece in the grip of austerity since the economic collapse of 2008. The result by Greek Blitz Theatre Group collective is mesmerising, an unbearably sad eulogy to Europe and a brilliant dance metaphor for a political situation where only memories remain of what went before.
At a time when the UK is riven by Euro-scepticism, there could hardly be a more moving epitaph to a world from which we seem only too keen to distance ourselves.
Everything about Late Night oozes European-ness, whether in the Blitz’s beautifully controlled, understated actor/dancers, in the poetry of their text delivered to a microphone with its references evoking the romance and the violence of European cities from Paris to Berlin, Amsterdam to Warsaw and all points in between.
In a ruined ballroom, empty but for chairs, an old tv set and a fringe of broken debris and rubble, six actors stare out at us.
Gradually they begin to waltz, obsessively, round and round to Khachaturian’s Masquerade waltz, breaking off to recall moments of lost love in an atmosphere soaked in a kind of WWII nostalgia and with a repeated phrase `in those days’ before moving on to describe scenes of mayhem, destruction, pain, emptiness, and hopelessness.
Yet there is an absurdist humour too. There are surreal, crazy hopes for the future and political references almost immediately discounted: `In 1 minute, she will decide. “Revolutionary” is a useful word. Now, Sophia is thinking of Marxism and its prospects. She is thinking that the future will be revolutionary – full of joy, dignity – Eros – Peace, of love. Now, Yiorgos is thinking that love is the only solution. In 1 minute, this thought will appear to him to be completely stupid.’
Ah Europe, whither now? Love is all you need, they suggest. Then again, it’s not enough…
Brilliant, brilliant company.
Late Night was at the Barbican from June 15-18, 2016
Review first published by Reviewsgate, June 2016