It’s not often murder and dance are played out in a whodunnit-style mystery, letting the audience play the role of jury. The highly accoladed Jasmin Vardimon, currently Associate Artist at Sadler’s Wells, manages to articulate a murder investigation through both narration and athletic movement in Justitia – something that is refreshing to watch yet equally confusing in its own right.
The three-sided set, rotating like a merry-go-round, is the first noticeable bit of whizzery, dazzling in its effectiveness to showcase the different characters and their involvement in the case. As each new scenario plays out, sometimes repeatedly from various points of view, the performers jump, slam, thump and then twist their bodies in a reverse motion to once again rehash the scene. We, the audience, are players, given testimonials from courtroom officials letting us decide which of the eight people is most responsible for the death of a young married couple's best friend. Is adultery to blame? Or perhaps rape? Or rather strangely, is it the stenographer’s lack of attention while typing the transcription?
The latter of these plausible ideas is where Vardimon’s script, co-created with Rebecca Lenkiewicz, veers off track. Just when the tension heightens, thanks to brilliant re-enactments inside the living room at the scene of the crime, additional characters are introduced like the neighbour that's bizarrely transsexual and the rather dull security guard, driving the suspense straight into the mud. Seemingly, the set made for such an exciting exploration of ideas, Vardimon couldn’t help herself but include as many bits of storyline as possible. Bless her. Merle Hensel's artistic direction, inclusive of the suspended chairs uniquely sitting oblong on the wall and Chahine Yavroyan's atmospheric, fractured lighting do impress. It’s just – for what purpose?
Justitia premiered at Peacock Theatre in 2007, and it appears minimal changes have been made to the show. Let’s hope at the next go 'round a bit more attention is made to its structure. Because Vardimon’s talents are clearly evident throughout – the choreography is sharp, witty, brave and at times boldly slapstick. Music choices such as Johnny Cash's Bridge Over Troubled Water are also daring (and emotive). But as a whole, Justitia needs tightening. We'll wait with bated breath for Vardimon's next offering.
Justitia is at The Peacock Theatre until Sunday 22 September. Saturday's show starts at 7.30pm and Sunday at 4pm. Tickets £12-£26. Londonist saw this show on a complimentary review ticket.