In a room bordered with rubble, an old TV and a fan with colorful streamers, three pairs of dancers waltz, tango and foxtrot to an unending frenzy of music – because if they stop, so does their respite from the world of ruin in which they live. Blitz Theatre Group’s Late Night, is a haunting contribution to LIFT, and one that could only come from a Greek perspective. Founded in 2004, Blitz Theatre Group defines itself as a contemporary Greek collective that asks what theatrical structures stand for in the 21st century, and aims to ‘represent a world that is in constant change and plunges people into perplexity’.
This context, both of the company itself, and the very real trouble of Europe in the immediate present, makes the controlled chaos of Late Night feel both like a threat and a sympathetic expression of despair that can be shared across European audiences. The old hotel ballroom is a safe haven from the world outside, even though the world outside seems to seep into the room when rubble falls from the ceiling. The dancers bring us into their world, set up like an unending cycle of dance and games. As they dance, they break off from their partners in order to step up to a microphone like a poet at a slam poetry contest, and share their thoughts, feelings and memories until they are torn away either by their partner, or their own inability to finish the sentence. From these interruptions, we are given glimpses into a life that at times seems like a post-apocalyptic wasteland and at others a strange utopia of carefree bliss, of love and liberation from society.
‘What is the point of memories?’ one dancer asks us. ‘To liberate us from the past and the future.’ Memory drives the strange games, of which the audience can only glean the rules by watching. Consciousness seems to blur together and memory speaks in circles. We never get a full, clear timeline exactly of how the world crumbled, but we can tell enough from the stories, and from the fact that their chronology is measured in days since the war started – Day 10, Day 15. Information that is repeated is sometimes changed – is one dancer an architect or a doctor? We’ve been told both. The memories also seem to lose temporality: we are told memories of a future of sleeping in the London Underground, or at train stations across Germany, of planes that were so loud that children became used to the noise.
Most hauntingly of all, we have already experienced this future that the dancers share with us: endless cycles of war, destruction, of refugees fleeing, and the ever-present uncertainty of what we’ll believe in tomorrow. We find ourselves like Virginia Woolf’s Between the Acts, caught in the void since the last world war, and on the brink of something we can only imagine and anticipate. But we also have the absurd parlour games, dances and circus tricks of DiDi and GoGo in Waiting For Godot to show us how to pass the time. Indeed, the dancers seem to have learned their ideas from Beckett, as they take a break from dancing in order to perform magic tricks and acrobatics that always fail. We are meant to clap with the dancers and celebrate their performances, smile and ignore their failure. Or perhaps celebrate it; we are meant to understand that this is all they have left, and we too, need them for a respite from a world not unlike the ruined ballroom – so why not applaud?
Late Night is on until 18th June 2016. Click here for more information.