Liberation Day & Frankenstein

Mark Bruce
Mark Bruce Company
The Place

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Jonathan Goddard & Anna Daly Credit: Mark Bruce
Dominic Rocca & Jonathan Goddard Credit: Mark Bruce

Mark Bruce’s Twilight-era aesthetic is out in full force during twenty-minute piece Liberation Day and the night’s focal show: Frankenstein.

The first half presents a vision of rural Americana in which pairings of dancers depict a jaded reality. The songs, written by Bruce himself, narrate sequences where passion is infused with alcohol, defeatism and manipulation alongside participation in community.

Bruce’s movement vocabulary is prominent during Liberation Day’s duets and solos, with an emphasis on angular opposition and sharp punctuation of phrases, especially in moments of contact. Dominic Rocca particularly executes these with impressive extension and precision.

Frankenstein brings John Goddard to the foreground; he is ideally cast to inhabit the characterful strength and vulnerability of the Monster. When Frankenstein’s Creature accidentally crushes wife Elizabeth, played by Anna Daly, to death, there is a true moment of dramatic shock and pause, inviting empathy for the perpetrator.

Bruce has chosen a novella apt for dance adaptation in Frankenstein, as it’s episodes between two or three people, as Frankenstein and the Monster encounter each other and outside influences such as the blind girl, can be produced at a manageable scale for touring.

Atmosphere and environment are effectively created by a few devices: statuesque figures such as Prometheus, played by Eleanor Duval, and the angelic Elizabeth take their places on transformable plinths. The relationship between Frankenstein and Elizabeth is brought to life more vividly than that of monster and creator, perhaps because they spend more stage time together, and also because of an intriguing coldness between the pair, reflecting the society in which they dance.

An ensemble of ‘bodies' and the ambivalent angel of life and death, Prometheus, are omnipresent in the piece, which is especially striking in the horror-esque scene in which Frankenstein searches for body parts. Filmic smoke and lighting polishes these.

The ambivalent Prometheus figure carries a surprising amount of weight in Bruce’s adaptation, culminating in a duet with the monster at the close. This is a curious choice as, to a degree, focality is shifted away from the characters who move the story towards an abstract allegory.

The costume choice for Prometheus and the other archetypal figure, Narcissus, are reminiscent of a fantasy saga figure typical of Twilight or Winx: leather wearing, bow wielding and sexualised. Interestingly, this style is also present in the first half and speaks strongly to noughties pop. culture.

Frankenstein is a cohesive and memorable production that can be shared on small and mid-scale stages, with particular flex for student audiences. It is also a good reflection of the tastes and creative preferences of its creator. As such, it would be well worth a student of dance or literature surgically dissembling and putting it back together.

Reviewer: Tamsin Flower

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