Late Night at the Barbican review: a surreal mesh of dance, sorrow and economic woe

 
Steve Dinneen
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Late night takes place in a crumbling music hall in a devastated Europe

Late Night | Barbican | ★★★★

Three couples sit in the wreckage of a music hall. A song comes on and they start to dance, expressionless, waltzing in neat circles around each other. Every so often one breaks ranks to stand before a microphone and deliver opaque lines of dialogue. Europe has fallen. War and strife reign. We are living through the end of days.

These snippets slowly form an abstract tapestry of love, loss and longing, of the everyday humiliations of living at the end of civilisation.

It’s no coincidence that Late Night is a Greek production (with surtitles) by theatre company Blitz; the apocalyptic tone clearly reflects the very real fears echoing through their homeland and across Europe.

But instead of wallowing in self-pity, or raging against an unjust world, these couples dance. When the music stops they perform unintentionally hilarious magic tricks and balancing acts and feats of strength. Each one has dreams: of being the world’s foremost magician and moving the Great Wall of China to Australia; to found a new academic movement called “romantic macroeconomics”; to be famous and have cultish followers in every corner of the globe.

The experimental structure, Lynchian soundtrack and ambiguous narrative make this a hypnotic and sometimes challenging experience, but one that’s ultimately worthwhile.

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