David Hughes Dance / Al Seed, The Red Room

Review in Issue 21-4 | Winter 2009

Pestilence, lunacy, sexual excess, hysteria… it’s all here, served up with grotesque glee and playfulness. The Red Room is an interpretation of Edgar Allan Poe’s Masque of the Red Death – a popular text amongst visual theatre makers (Punchdrunk and Paper Cinema being two other recent Red Death interpreters). This one’s a dance-theatre piece directed by a physical theatre performer/director (Al Seed); a beautiful burlesque romp with – as you’d expect from Seed – strong elements of dark clown or Bouffon. Carefully crafted, expertly performed, The Red Room (after Poe) explores typical Gothic concerns: the battle between reason and emotion; the struggle of the individual versus the needs of the collective; the lure of the dangerous ‘outsider’; the fear of the invasion of the body.

It’s certainly a ‘total’ visual theatre experience: there are stunning lighting shifts (electric emerald, lurid lime, vivid violet,) as we skip merrily through the colour-coded rooms in the doomed castle of the story, towards our final razor red destination; gorgeous white-on-white costume/mask design, with some interesting peripheral puppetry (cloth horses emerging from swathes of skirts); and entertaining performances from a team of dancers collected up from many disciplines (ballet, hip hop, contemporary, capoeira) who meet the physical theatre sensibility of Al Seed’s direction full-on – for example, when a courtly gavotte breaks into a chaotic clown fight.

As an added bonus, for the run at the Traverse Al Seed was performing in the show – and although this was a last-minute deputising for a dancer on compassionate leave, it is actually hard to imagine how the piece might be without his distinctive physical presence.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Festival
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Aug 2009

This article in the magazine

Issue 21-4
p. 28