Shunt, Dance Bear Dance

Review in Issue 14-3 | Autumn 2002

It’s not over till the fat lady sings – or in this case till the fat bear does his dance. Just when you thought it was all over comes the final soupçon, a little teaser from Shunt: curtain call as performance art.

Dance Bear Dance is total theatre in the Wagnerian sense of the term: one is reminded of the review of the first performance of ‘Parsifal’, described as ‘midway between mass and orgy’. All exotic and fetish-fodder human life is here: spymasters, foreign agents, nuns, priests, casino croupiers, trapeze artistes… a sort of compendium of contemporary archetype.

With more than a nod in the direction of Artaud, Shunt create a theatre of the senses that sometimes crosses over into sheer sensory assault. At times I found myself thinking ‘I’m too old for all this’ as we were yet again dragged from one space to another, left to flounder in the dark or terrorised by loud bangs. Yet what else to expect in a show about gunpowder plots and the politics of terror? Shunt want their audience to physically experience the event, not just cerebrally take in the ideas. And if you are younger than me and thus not reared on 70s anarchic ‘happenings’ it will all be new to you.

Lest I sound too cynical I will say that Shunt do it very well: the dramaturgy of the show, the visual sensibility, the use of light and space, is realised far beyond most contemporary young theatre-makers’ capabilities. The performers work extremely well together – although less sure of themselves in interaction with the audience, which they encourage yet shy away from when the bait is taken. I enjoyed myself – in a heart-in-mouth-in-the-ghost-train sort of way – but next time will wear comfy shoes.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Aug 2002

This article in the magazine

Issue 14-3
p. 27