Reprising their 2007 Fringe First show, Hangman, influential dance-theatre company Do-Theatre, part of Assembly’s Russian Season, must be confident of similar success five years on.
The show’s intriguing tagline promises “a game and the personage in one” and there are certainly ludic elements that make it highly watchable. The performance opens with a convoluted, clownesque – and ultimately macabre – game of hangman, and the closing scene recalls this impressive opener with similarly well-choreographed interactions and similarly dark undertones. The ‘personage’ is evident and choreographer Evgeny Kozlov’s dramatic intentions to blur the roles and perspectives of the characters are clear and beautifully staged.
It was the intervening 40 minutes that lost the audience: a series of scenarios unrelated to each other or to the story thread that bookends the piece. That said, these scenes are impressive and a remarkably eclectic showcase of the group’s talents combining every trick in the book: dance; mime; clowning; stilt-work; audience interaction; shadowplay; even a brief, weak attempt at verbal comedy.
The work of the five performers is solid and it is clear they are dancers who have worked together a long time. But more remarkable is the staging; the set is majestic. Pulley systems abound to allow curtains of newspaper to unfold, lamps to swing and suits to be lowered from the rig. The show’s final image is masterful and memorable, and rounds off a powerful finale to leave the audience with something to savour after a puzzling hour of theatre.