This Is Not a Love Story review: A bit of romance wouldn’t go amiss

This self-referential performance plays with the possibility of different endings and destinations

Johan Thelander and Kristiina Viiala. Photograph: Stefan Bohlin

Johan Thelander and Kristiina Viiala. Photograph: Stefan Bohlin

 

This is Not a Love Story
Project Arts Centre
★★★

Swedish choreographer and film-maker Gunilla Heilborn gets theatrical pyrotechnics out of the way in the first five minutes of her production, as if giving a knowing nod to the audience: if that is what you have come for, you are in the wrong place. Amid explosive thunder and strobe lightning flashes, two performers stagger away in a cloud of dry ice.

It could have ended differently, they tell each other, and the self-referential performance that unfolds plays with the possibility of different endings and destinations, as two characters encounter each other and exchange photographs and snatches of information. The piece was developed in coproduction over a year, in a series of residencies that took Heilborn and her two dancers on journeys throughout Europe by train, from Tromsø to Lisbon.

Dressed in floral print shirts and loose trousers, dancers Johan Thelander and Kristiina Viiala unite and separate on the stripped black stage. In brief interludes that look deceptively casual but are precisely choreographed, they alternate easily between serene movement sequences and conversation. Their revolving dance phrases, performed in delicate unison, are more wistfully expressive than the ironic dialogue, which plays with the fact that English is not their first language.

Desultory references to American road movies and to mythic heroes such as Odysseus prompt Viiala to observe that she can’t remember any facts about the past, while proceeding to question Thelander in detail about an early Norwegian Arctic expedition. The conversation – studied and slightly absurd – juxtaposes these epic quests with their own travels. As if conscious of how whimsical they are in comparison, they seem to shrug in response, focusing instead on everyday minutiae, while Thelander joins an organisation called Enjoy Life, to stave off Nordic gloom. Perhaps a love story might have done the trick after all.

Until October 14th

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