Sky-High Madness And Thrills In The Roof

'The Roof' at The National, Image taken by Helen Maybanks.

‘The Roof’ in the Doon Street Car Park behind The National Theatre, Image taken by Helen Maybanks.

As with all Shunt Productions, you never know what to expect. If you couple that with Fuel, whose previous alternative works include Going Dark and Contains Violence, then you know for certain you’re in for a mind-twisting experience.

Playing on sound and movement, something Shunt’s David Rosenberg and Fuel’s Frauke Requardt utilised in the 2011 site-specific show The Electric Hotel, the two directors again reunite for a live-action multi-player video game The Roof, this time taking place in an empty car park. Commissioned by LIFT and in association with The National Theatre, the show does exactly ‘what’s on the tin’. The audience follows one man, ‘the player’, through a series of challenges that entail hurdling over rooftops, battling strange figures with giant yellow heads and even fleeing from a frightened mother who constantly reminds what a scary place the world is.

The Roof - Fuel

‘The Roof’ in the Doon Street Car Park behind The National Theatre, Image taken by Helen Maybanks.

While the plot is slightly convoluted, it is far more structured than most dance shows, thanks in part to a scoreboard that keeps track of how many lives are left and what level has been reached. The directors also hope the game-like structure resembles the chase of life, taking reference points from Bruce Lee and John Little’s book The Art of Expressing the Human Body: ”If you’re not better than you were the day before, then what’s the point?”

These are heavy ideas, and perhaps the overall dramatic tension doesn’t build up as it should. While the parkour-style jumps from leads Danilo Caruso and Kynam Moore are impressive, they never add up to more than aesthetically pleasing dance sequences. As the levels increase, we are introduced to more wacky characters whom ‘the player’ and his partner must duel — but the odd-looking characters sometimes feel whimsical rather than threatening.

So, okay — it’s not perfect. But as so often with these types of productions, it’s more about the experience than it is the story. And The Roof placates to just that: exterior site with impressive 360 degree stage design (check), three-dimensional music and sound effects heard through Sennheiser-style headphones allowing audiences to feel immersed in the action (check), original choreography that has characters grooving and shaking from suspended boxes to the tip-tops of rooftops (check). Even better yet, the on-site bar — The Salt Bar — is open before and after the production. In this fine weather, it’s worth a venture.

The Roof is on until 28 June in the Doon Street Car Park in back of The National Theatre. Tickets are £29.50, and concessions are £19.50. Performances are Monday-Saturday, starting at 9.30pm. Each show is one hour long and is entirely outside (make sure to dress appropriately). 

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