Hidden away in the back streets of Bethnal Green, in the railway arches with the trains thundering into Liverpool Street overhead, lies the Resistance Gallery. For these few nights in July it has been turned into a little piece of South America: a seedy cabaret club complete with bar, low (virtually non-existent) lighting and an air of desperation.
Where the Nights are Blue and Electric is a story of the search for love: a quest both for its existence and for its meaning, a journey which encompasses reality, dreams, and the murky area that straddles the two. It's told in a series of vignettes, in cabaret style, linked by narrative but distinctively different in their dramatic style. There's song, dance, monologue and even compering verging on stand-up.
Energinmotion categorise themselves as a physical theatre company, formed by Nicole Pschetz (from Brazil) and Antonio Blanco (from Mexico). They conceived and perform this piece, in which they are joined on stage by John Andrew Cunnington. They list as their inspiration the work of Latin American writers such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Columbia) and Octavio Paz (Mexico). They pay particular debt to Eyes of a Blue Dog by the former, and the latter’s The Labyrinth of the Solitude.
The evening begins with two songs from the "cabaret club" house singers. In striving to establish the sense of place, the duo play a cat and mouse game with the 'management', which feigns disdain for their performance. It is very difficult for the audience not to share the management's desire that the singers should leave the stage. Musicians have to be very, very good to carry off the air of the inadequate performer without simply seeming inadequate. But the two musicians redeemed themselves in the eyes of most of the audience as they became waitresses and distributed complimentary tequila.
This rather uncomfortable 'overture' is followed by some extended dialogue in - I assumed - Spanish. Again, the company presents itself with another hurdle, for there are few groups of seasoned performers who can adequately convey an intimate scene in a foreign language. Peter Brook's company these are not.
It's therefore rather frustrating that, once they have dispensed with guest singers and intricate foreign dialogue, the evening comes alive as the performers turn to their declared specialist area of all things physical. Frustrating because they are so skilled, so inventive, so expressive and so articulate in their movement and dance that they tell a story with more passion and clarity than they ever achieve with volumes of words.
Maria seeks love - she has been desired, but never loved. Although that quest provides the arc of the narrative, there are some distractions along the way. Nicole Pschetz excels in this role - or roles, as Maria moves from unfulfilled housewife to cabaret singer, unrequited lover back to resigned housewife. She performs equally well on her own (a very engaging turn as the cabaret singer, madly miming to a recording of an expansive diva) or in partnership with either of her male partners. Antonio Blanco and John Andrew Cunnington not only perform beautiful duets with her, but also with each other when possibilities of a homosexual relationship develop. Choreography and direction retain a sense of place throughout.
Resources are limited, but there is ingenious use of costume and props, particularly in the final scene of washing away dreams and purging of past misdemeanours. A programme note says this production is "ready". Respectfully I suggest it is ready for a critical friend to re-assess and edit the content, recognising the trio's undoubted physical skills and ensuring that future outings exploit those strengths to the full.