Death Trap, Rambert

April 9, 2024 by


After the pretty wonderful Peaky Blinders from Rambert, there was a lot of anticipation of the company’s return to Wales. Unfortunately, the experience was rather a let-down. Not because of the exquisite skills of the dancers, a gloriously diverse group of individuals, but the poor programming of two Ben Duke works in one evening.

The first work, Cerebus, was made in 2022 and was the most satisfying of the two pieces. Goat from back in 2017 was an often-annoying encounter that left you wishing the dancers had been given something less wordy (rather than worthy) to get their arms, legs and anything else into.

Dancers should be seen and rarely heard. Unfortunately, this double bill has far too much chatter and babble making it more a piece of theatre with dance.



Cerebus is pretty obviously based on the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice but in case we don’t get it the narrator of sorts tells the story to the dancer who want his lover back. Cue much bemoaning and questionings and ranting into a microphone in Sotho by Musa Motha until a translator explains what is going on. It is interesting, using ropes around dancers to pull them first into life and then back from Hades when they have wandered off stage.

The musicians on stage, Romarna Campbell, Johnny Wickham and singer Caroline Jaya-Ratnam, provide a good soundtrack that is a beguiling take on Monteverdi and contemporary sounds for intricate, stylised grief, despair, jerky and frantic movements which are presumably the person’s journey from life to death. It is at times genuinely funny and has moments of pathos. Apparently, Musa Motha was on Britain’s Got Talent. The costumes from Eleanor Bull are funereal cool.

After the interval we are bombarded with an intentionally deeply annoying journalist with a microphone whose cameraman is directed around the stage as they try to interview dancers as they prepare and then perform a ritual that is a pastiche of The Rites of Spring. They should have just let the journalist Alex Soulliere dance. The assembled congregation at a sort of church service/ wake/ concert cannot kill an animal, far too many animal rights infringed, so a human is selected by Fate and must wear the goat skull and dance himself to death.

The primordial dance of The Chosen One, discarding post-it notes the others have stuck to him (presumably their own cares and concerns) before the death ritual, is sufficiently disquieting and even shuts up the journalist from his inane questioning and commentary. There are lots more jerky movements (and some pretty fine singing from Sheree DuBois of Nina Simone  songs for some reason) until the journalist decides to swap places with The Chosen One under a black shroud.

It actually sounds more interesting than it actually is when performed as a dance work. Theatrically it is fine but the dance choreography is neither sufficiently engaging nor innovative to justify the time spent.

This feels more like the sort of work from our own dance companies, rather than one of the country’s finest.


Images: Camilla Greenwell.


Wales Millennium Centre until April 9.

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