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Love and War (Tour - Manchester)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Mark Bruce's Love and War is the last touring production to visit the Royal Exchange Studio in the Summer Season. Featuring seven performers dancing to an eclectic mix of music from Sparklehorse, Tom Waits to Nirvana and Queens Of The Stone Age; apart from the odd lapse in pace, this is a stunning piece of work.

The performers have worked with the likes of Rambert, DV8, Random Dance and Adventures In Motion Pictures, and this shows throughout the piece, as this troupe act with their eyes as well as Bruce's mesmerising movement. Joanne Fong has the most expressive face as she can bring poignancy to a scene without the aid of a soundtrack. She moves beautifully, even when playing a giant spider about to devour its pray; a man in a bath!

Darren Ellis has a swagger which invites you into the series of vignettes, along with Caroline Hotchkiss who brings  warmth to every move she makes. Ino Riga, Elizabeth Mischler and Eleanor Duval all perform with grace, yet have an air of unpredictability which suits the non linear narrative devices.

There are many jaw dropping moments, including a chariot scene, whereby dancers pull the cart via their reins to the sound of Nirvana's "Scentless Apprentice." Even the most nightmarish situation is beautified by gorgeous set pieces and this talented troupe. If you can imagine a world inhabited with cheerleaders, tightrope walkers, Natural Born Killers, ingenues, rock stars and gods - all jostling for your attention - this is Love and War.

As ambitious as all of this is, there are times when several scenes would benefit with tightening as some elements work far better than others. The slower paced dance pieces, for example look awkward when judged alongside the more high octane sections.

But, due to Bruce's inventive direction and candid choreography, the performers' complete immersion into this weird and wonderful world, and Guy Hoare's evocative lighting; Love and War remains a scorcher.    


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