Out of the Shadow, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London – review

A few years ago Nobulus, an Austrian breakdance ensemble, made a fine impression during the Sadler’s Wells annual Breakin’ Convention season with a short piece which concerned itself with Life, Death, the Universe, and the fun of popping, locking and other delights of street dance. Inspired, I hazard, by such acclaim, the troupe returns here this autumn for a regional tour, bearing an elephantine exercise in heavy-duty activities, involving acrobatic dance, thunderous mime in which the performers pretend to be everything from dinosaurs to machine-guns, messages about Our Destiny – and the exhausting tedium of dramatic gesture – as well as the origins of life and its probable extinction.

At the QEH on Wednesday, we faced the full blast of the affair, whose artistic director, creator, dancer – thus notes the programme – is Alex Wengler. We owe vastly much to Austria, from Mozart to Sachertorte, but I am damned and double-damned if I can put up with this event without protest. What we see is Little Audrey’s Guide to Doom, played out amid more dry ice and swivelling spotlights than the average opera house uses in a year.

The cast wear, for most of the time, black coveralls – like cotton frogman suits – with sensible shoes. They run, scuttle, make groups, posture, turn themselves into Disney-ish animals and office furniture, burst into occasional passages of a vigorous street-dance kind, and serve as décor for a blatant narrative about a man (Herr Wengler, no less) and his pursuit of a girl, his addiction to drugs, his redemption, the end of the world, and his Fears For The Future.

An intermittent visitor to the proceedings is a white-clad figure attended by booming messages of stupefying political correctness from the wings – rather like broadcasts for some deranged but fiercely earnest candidate in an election. The musical accompaniment veers from thunderous imbecilities and bombastic pop to Voices of Spring, Gayane’s Sabre Dance and Also Sprach Zarathustra. The cast work like demons. The effect of spotlights through the omnipresent mists of dry ice soon loses its charm. Mankind is extinction-bound – and very right too, if this tosh is anything to go by.


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