Review: Flirt With Reality, Peacock Theatre

An ensemble of eight dancers and one tabla player present a series of narrative dances enhanced by technology in Another Kind of Blue’s performance of Flirt with Reality at the Peacock Theatre. Choreographer David Middendorp’s work is known for its appearances on both Britain’s Got Talent and America’s Got Talent, videos of which have subsequently gone viral online. Many of the performances in Flirt with Reality may be familiar to those who have stumbled upon them on the web, but the role technology plays in these set pieces makes seeing them live a unique experience.

The first performance, Airman, sees dancer Klevis Elmazaj accompanied on stage by twelve small drones. What follows is an impressive manipulation of the drones as they synchronise with each other and Elmazaj’s intricate movements. Sticking with the company’s theme of blue, this piece has an underwater vibe to it, which perhaps offers an explanation for why Elmazaj is wearing scuba goggles throughout. There is something hologram-like about the way Elmazaj moves with the drones that I think must only come across in a live viewing of this unusual performance.

For the rest of the show, most of the dances are similar in theory in that the dancers on stage manipulate their bodies to match and interact with a projected scene on the screen behind them. It’s visually impressive and technically complicated, but once we’ve seen the first of these long performances the novelty wears off. A duet between Jeroen van Acker and Faizah Grootens, As it Appears, is the best use of this technology, though Demi-Carlin Aart’s role in Blue Journey is also impressive.  

The show is made much more interesting by the role of accomplished tabla player, Niti Ranjan Biswas, who is the heart and sole of the final piece titled Game Engine. Biswas brings something very human and comforting to this otherwise deliberately digital show. The final performance is particularly captivating as the entire cast comes together like clogs in a machine. 

For a show that deliberately plays with ‘real’ and digital realities, I am not sure that technology comes across particularly well in Flirt With Reality. The drones look good, but ruin the music with their irritating buzzing and the animations are impressive but can and do succumb to glitches. From where I’m sitting the technological excess isn’t nearly as visually impressive as the dancers’ most stripped-back performances. Maybe that’s the point, that technology distracts us from what really matters – but I’m not sure that was the desired impression. 

Flirt With Reality is playing until 14 July. For more information and tickets, visit the Peacock Theatre website.