The Guardian 11.3.03
Maverick theatre: Shunt's
Dance Bear Dance
Infuriating and exhilarating, frustrating and liberating, Shunt's examination of subversive actions and conspiracy theories has long periods when it seems to be rambling along - as well as some moments that are more exciting and surprising than anything you will see in the theatre this year. This is one piece of theatre that goes with a bang.
Even to try to explain it would be to spoil the shock effect of this unique evening; suffice it to say, it begins with the audience being ushered into a small space dominated by an oval conference table. You are allocated a country and, when a buzzer sounds, you take your place at the table. After observing a minute's silence for Kazakhstan, which has clearly come to a recent and bloody end, you find yourself part of an unfolding plot to blow up a nameless common enemy: "In 24 minutes, the world will be a better place."
Loosely inspired by the gunpowder plot (not exactly terrorism's finest hour), the piece has added bite in a post-9/11 world and, although it isn't always clear exactly what it is trying to say (except perhaps that, however dangerous its consequences, there is something absurd about all terrorist activity, with its clubby rituals reminiscent of kids playing James Bond), the whole thing is executed with tremendous elan. The format fights so hard against traditional expectations and conventions of theatre that you end up feeling quite disorientated, at times even scared and in need of a friend's hand to hold. It is not always clear who is a performer and who is not, and there are moments when you do not believe your eyes. Even the curtain call takes a particularly gruesome form.
The whole thing is leavened
by wit and, although you occasionally feel that what you are seeing has a
stronger technical than creative element, this is a typically maverick and
intriguing contribution to London theatre from a company proving itself more
prepared than most to take risks.