Wired Theatre’s Dancing in the Dark takes us behind closed doors to tell a story of a dysfunctional, middle-class family consisting of a mother and her three grown-up children. Set in Brighton, this promenade Fringe show is staged in an exquisite Brighton home and once we’re in the confines of the family space we’re exposed to their flaws and their agonising relationship battles with one another. Dancing in the Dark begins under the pretence of being an open house showing off artwork (indeed, the property is doubling up as an open house selling art and other artefacts during the festival) until we hear a commotion kicking off outside the door. Mother’s home. We’re then led from lounge to kitchen to bedroom to hallway, learning more about the struggles this trio of grown-up siblings have had with their dominating, psychopathically uncaring mother Lavinia (Gillian Eddison) with each new location.
In disconnected, non-linear snippets of action we witness critical moments in the lives of these characters. Lavinia confesses she never wanted children and hates her adult offspring. In one heart-breaking moment, Peter (Robin Humphreys) opens up to his mother about the experience of watching his partner David die in his arms, but Lavinia still refuses to acknowledge the weight of her son’s same-sex relationship. In another, Lavinia spits at daughter Andrea (Angela Ferns) to stop crying as she weeps for the death of her father. In the show’s pinnacle moment, Charles (Graham White) reveals his secret desire to live as a woman, leaving his spouse Jean (Jackie Thomas) to make sense of her life following this revelation.
Whilst not as funny as a comedy should be, Dancing in the Dark is touching, portraying gory but relatable family truths. In other moments it verges on creepily perverse as the cast of five older adults scamper about on the floor playing their childhood selves and discussing where babies come from. The tone and content of the drama make it somewhat like a Brighton-based, visual version of The Archers, and some scenes which play out in real time – such as the family sitting in silence sipping drinks after the funeral of the father, or Jean dressing Charles as Carol – could benefit from being sped up. However this show, with its setting in a home, embodies what the Fringe festival is all about: celebrating the work of (in this case local) theatre companies – and it is fantastic to experience theatre by a company who have worked with the Fringe for 14 years.
Dancing in the Dark is playing 41 Hollingbury Park Avenue as part of Brighton Fringe until 5 June 2016. For more information and tickets, see the Brighton Fringe website.