Dances Like a Bomb is a dance and physical theatre piece by Irish Dance Company Junk Ensemble. The show celebrates the strength and capacity of elderly bodies and challenges the adoration of youth. It simultaneously shows in a very realistic way what it’s like to age and what benefits and disadvantages it entails. The story follows a couple, made of actor Mikel Murfi and dancer Finola Cronin. We go through the couple’s lives in a non-linear way, through dance, movement and occasional dialogue and voice over.
Two powerhouses interpreting with deep realness
At first the couple is in their underwear and we see their private dynamic exploring their bodies and leaning on each other. Often in a comedic and playful way showing us that aging is not to be feared. Through their movement the inevitability of aging becomes clear and their acceptance of it as well. The contemporary dance and physical theatre movements are rough and heavy, very natural, less technical and more akin to normal people, rather than dancers. This stylistic choice matches the concept of the piece, but it would’ve been exciting to see these two elderly performers including some more technical elements of dance.
The couple becomes quickly clothed and we are immersed in their pubic life. We see their relationship, conflicts, love, neglect and pure connection. They explore their fears and regrets - everything that age has taken from them - with remarkable humour and drama in equal parts, as well as everything that they have learned and how age has enriched them. The show faces and challenges age, interpreted by two engaging performers. Their relationship is both loving and co-dependent and the story explores how one will pass before the other and break them. Through jumps in time and different kinds of small scenes, the tale does often become difficult to decode. Although conceptual at times, there seemed to be a story which was possible to understand but could’ve been made clearer to strengthen the ambitious concept.
Mikel has an often unhinged and brave performance, intoxicating to watch as he is dances like no one is around. Finola has a mainly stoic delivery which heavily draws the attention to her powerful movement. The performances could’ve varied more and veered out of the unhinged and stoic routes frequently during the one-hour run time.
The set is a rectangular platform with two chairs and a tall corner structure covered in greenery, which evokes the feel of a cemetery or an aged version of the garden of Eden. The dancers play with getting closer and further away from the structure, like it’s death. The lighting was simple with a yellow light that becomes stronger and softer. It was very dark at times which built a strong atmosphere but did difficult visibility.
The show is engaging and the concept is powerful and crucial. Seeing elderly dancers tell this story and move with tremendous skill was very impressive. Mikel and Fiona are two powerhouses interpreting with deep realness. Shows like Dances Like a Bomb should be more common in the dance and theatre scenes.