Review: Room Temperature Romance, Barbican Pit Theatre
Published on Culture Wars, 30.10.2009
Examining those momentary nothings that, taken together, make up a lifelong friendship, Levantes Dance Theatre misjudge the balance of design and substance and so succumb to a trite tweeness. All girlish giggles and glances, Room Temperature Romance is the dance equivalent of knotted pinkies that promise to be friends forever. Cross my heart and hope to die.
Often it calls to mind a French and Saunders flashback sequence: the sort in which the pair run through fields or bake cakes, only for one to fall foul of a clumsy disposition and fall down a well or become clouded in flour. Then, of course, they turn to one another and laugh, still ‘bezzie mates’ in spite of mismatched natures.
Eleni Edipidi and Bethanie Harrison make a clownish double act. Sharing stark Frida Karlo monobrows drawn on in marker pen, they create flashes of touching comedy but lack a strictly defined hierarchy that would allow their routines to gain momentum. The contrast of Harrison’s flickering eyes and Edipidi’s doltish, empty gaze simply isn’t enough. In fact, the whole piece has a soft focus fuzziness that prevents it from really achieving anything more than a pink and fluffy feel.
As dancers, they veer towards the distinctly unvirtuosic. The tatty synchronicity and dumpy clunkiness adds a certain everyday charm, matched by the doddering uncertainty of their older counterparts, who interrupt proceedings to stage manage with an air of fond nostalgia for mischief past. Too often, however, their choreography relies on monotonous call and response. It follows a pattern of withering domination and wilting submission, where Edipidi’s doe-eyed mimicry of Harrison inevitably relies on offering something a bit less good.
This monotony is, however, concealed – at least, on the surface – by the boldness of Room Temperature Romance’s design. The vibrancy of its colours and the cut of its clothes give it a sumptuous visual element. The emphasis on fashion, however, detracts from the bodies themselves, which seem mere motors for swishing hems. The result is to sap the instinctive oomph of movement, to stop us swaying subconsciously along in our seats.
Add to this too much stage business, noticeably overplayed clowning and hackneyed discussions of SMS etiquette and Room Temperature Romance drags.
In its final moments, as the stage fills with miniature mechanical pigs and the pair down Guiness in frosty pink gowns against a deep turquoise background, the piece reveals what might have been. It is a sequence at once surreal, real and fictional, sparking images and ideas of recognisable friendships while also turning an eye on itself.
Instead, Room Temperature Romance takes a widescreen view and fails to find the details that can turn its nothings into something special.
Photograph: Levantes Dance