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The Dark Side of Love

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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It's a great time for Bardophiles. The World Shakespeare Festival is ensuring that Will is everywhere, on TV, radio, theatre, in analyses, discussions and productions across the country. None are likely to be as impressionistic as The Dark Side of Love, which brings together young performers from London and Brazil in a collaboration between the RSC, the Roundhouse and the London International Festival of Theatre.

At the beginning of this promenade production in the atmospherically dark underbelly of the the Roundhouse, the audience roams around the outer ring of the Hub, while performers present snippets in the many niches around the space. Some of the pieces are Shakespearean, while others offer more modern thoughts about love and death, in English, Portuguese, Italian and German. So far, so bizarre.

But once the audience is gently shepherded into the central performance space, the production takes off with a multi-media assault on the senses. There's a feeling of having walked into the middle of a dramatic painting that is coming to life. There's Ophelia, and over there Romeo and Juliet, and Desdemona, all drenched in blood, the embodiment of the doomed love that infuses Shakespeare's tragedies.

Simultaneously ethereal and edgy, traditional and modern, The Dark Side of Love gathers the various strands into an extremely satisfying whole, with no dissonance between the language of Shakespeare and the language of today's streets. Direction by Renato Rocha, music by Jules Maxwell and choreography by Ella Robson Guilfoyle are all beautifully interdependent, while Georgia Lowe's design is sumptuously bloody.

The young performers from the UK and Brazil are quite simply fabulous, never missing a beat. It's a feast of music, dance, projections and lighting, all coming together for a thought-provoking production which deconstructs the darker relationships in Shakespeare's plays and explores young love in a way that is as relevant today as it was four centuries ago.

The Dark Side of Love could very easily have slipped into pretension. The young performers' intensity and excellence ensure that this piece stays on the right side of that line.

- Carole Gordon


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