Review: Rooms by Rambert. Live performance, streamed until 11 April 2021. Book here.
[Disclosure: The Oxford Playhouse provided me with a ticket to Rooms for the purposes of this review.]
Once in a rare while, a performance comes along that is a perfect expression of its time. Contemporary dance company, Rambert’s new production, Rooms, is one of those performances. Incomprehensible in 2019, yet, entirely coherent in April 2021, Rambert’s new production is a breath taking masterpiece – performed live by 17 dancers – and live streamed to audiences.
Rooms is made up of 36 different scenes, performed in different rooms, that are vignettes, reflecting the last 12 months. Everybody will find something that they recognise from their own experience of the last 12 months in one of the 36 scenes, which range from tragedy, comedy, tragicomedy, the mundane, the extraordinary and farce.
There is no need to wax lyrical about the technical abilities of the Rambert dancers – they are at the top of their game – and have somehow maintained their technical mastery and artistic purity at a time when many other professional dancers have struggled.
It is the sheer audacity of this piece that astounds - put together, rather than choreographed, by Jo Strømgrenin in collaboration with the dancers. Almost everything that has happened in 2020-2021 can be found in this performance – from political upheaval, the joy in the mundane, suicidal despair, escapism, joy, infidelity, domestic violence, madness…
You would think that to have such a wide array of themes would result in a disjointed or incoherent performance but it is here that the sheer genius of the show is displayed. Despite being utterly distinct, each scene follows the next in a way that is so smooth that I could barely believe that it was live. The experience was faultless and seamless – so that the technical side of the team - the stage managers, the camera operators - have become integral performers in their own right and deserve as much praise as the dancers.
We are all experiencing Zoom and screen fatigue and our concentration spans are shot. I thought that this would translate into exhaustion while watching yet another online show – but Rooms did not trigger any of that ennui. I was immersed in the beautiful and technically extraordinary show from the count down at the very beginning – before it even started.
Rooms is the brave, beautiful and entertaining performance of our time.
Trigger warning: Some of the vignettes in Rooms contain content relating to suicide, suicidal feelings and domestic violence.