Death on the depressing dancefloor that is the job and house hunting game – certainly not the most ideal outcome for a 21 year old just trying to live. But competition is fierce, and if one thing is totally clear, it’s that everyone is in this game for themselves. Using fantastic movement sequences, Spies Like Us present a piece of theatre with infectious levels of energy and increasingly demonic themes. What begins as incredibly promising and innocent slowly dissolves into utter absurdity, without much indication of what or what for.
What begins as incredibly promising and innocent slowly dissolves into utter absurdity, without much indication of what or what for.
Sabrina has moved back to her family home since finishing university, hanging out at the pub with mates and desperately trying to find a job that might offer more than the slog of hospitality can. When her father reveals that he is selling the house, fear catalyses the descension of Sabrina’s mental state, unable as she is to shake off pressure from, jealousy of, and anger at those surrounding her.
Almost horrifyingly relatable, Murder on the Dancefloor captivates near the beginning with naturalistic, fast paced and humourous dialogue. Despite most of the cast playing multiple roles, each new character is well defined and unique, each armed with their own opinion on the play’s themes. The main discussion at hand is that of money – who has it, who deserves it, and what to do to get it. As a helpfully reminding metaphor, the cast size up arbitrary lengths with measuring tape, as if in constant re-evaluation of financial situation. Spies Like Us do an excellent job with visual metaphors, particularly in the stunning movement sequences – stupendous set pieces in equal parts totalling thrilling and surprisingly emotive. Each member of the cast is hyper energetic, completely in sync with each other and the music, somehow managing to remain so expressive throughout. As the physicality starts to invade each scene, the onlookers wear menacing expressions, ready to pull the characters down to devilish depths.
Sadly, the plot struggles to match the stunning physicality of the piece. The tension boils up slowly to unbearable heights, but the company never truly capitalise on this work with any sort of climax. What was once clever, naturalistic dialogue deteriorates as the play takes a turn for the absurd. An incredible lead performance makes it easy to see Sabrina’s mental decay to this point, but its hard to get past the fact that her situation is not nearly dire enough that it should have this effect on her. This is not helped by the secondary plotline, drawing attention to Sabrina’s brother taking advantage of her best friend. These feel like distinct stories, detracting from one another so that neither has the depth necessary for the show to make sense.
“I don’t work hard enough to be allowed to be happy, you work too hard to be able too”. Very interesting questions surrounding the themes of this how feel a little wasted by the decision to push the plot in such a needlessly dark direction. Perhaps Spies Like Us are trying to make a point, exaggerating events to highlight sheer desperation. But each of the characters is so irredeemably unlikable by this stage that the message gets lost. The trouble with a group of utterly selfish characters is that compassion is a real stretch. “Some of us have to graft for a living”, Sabrina complains. But her plight isn’t particularly interesting or moving considering her privilege, and her attitude.