BWW Review: RETURN TO HEAVEN, Tobacco Factory Theatres Bristol
A post-apocalyptic road warrior, an astronaut and a shark walk into a bar...
That's not strictly true. It's also not the opening to the most obscure joke you've ever heard. They do however share the stage in Mark Bruce's latest dance odyssey Return to Heaven.
Drawing on Ancient Egyptian mythology and employing a smattering of cinematic B-movie techniques, Return to Heaven is not an evening of dance designed to wash over the audience in a wave of pretty movement and nice costumes. This is a non-linear, absurd, grotesque and often moving beast of a production.
As always, Bruce and his company challenge perceptions and perspective within the narrative. If at times the moments between dance extend for a period longer than expected or desired, it could be argued that these moments are as choreographed as the dance itself.
The show is promoted as a cinematic love story. Whilst the influence of cinema is present, Bruce's work is inherently theatrical. In any other medium, this work would not exist. It is unique to theatre and theatre is a better place for it. It is confrontational, dynamic and never, ever dull.
The design is ingenious, and the team must be congratulated on their use of the space and the smoke and mirrors used to navigate the world that has been created. As always, Bruce's playlist is as eclectic and heart-thumping as the story he tells.
The company also deserves to be championed. Each performer brings a unique and powerful dynamic to the stage. With Return to Heaven, it is especially the work of Sharol Mackenzie, Carina Howard and Eleanor Duval that make this production one of Bruce's most divisive and yet most striking pieces of work.
To walk out of this production and not know what it was about is walking out of the production having not engaged. This will provide different responses from different people. To quote movie director Ed Wood (who would have adored this production), "This story's gonna grab people."
Return to Heaven on at Tobacco Factory Theatres Bristol until 8 February
Image by Nicole Guarino