Dance: By Force of Fantasy / V-TOL The Place, London

Click to follow
You don't often see a dance piece that would work on the radio, but the characters in Mark Murphy's By Force of Fantasy are brought to life by a series of interior monologues written by Gary Young which almost have a life of their own. Young's writing reveals the (exclusively sexual) fantasy lives of the five characters lined up stage-front: a promiscuous man; a woman addicted to pornography; a lonely woman and a married couple in search of sexual thrills. Their obsessions are brought to life by the voices of Louis Dempsey and the superb Tamsin Grieg - familiar to Archers fans as Debbie Aldridge.

Without Young's text we would have only Murphy's choreography to go on. Athletic and vicious as always, it is a touch Neanderthal when it comes to communicating emotions more complex than lust or rage.

The limited choreographic vocabulary is masked by the other elements in the piece. Murphy continues to make inspired use of film and creates a multi-layered evocation of the parallel universe of fantasy. In one sequence, we see brief clips of men and women in the street while the voice-over wickedly speculates on the dreams behind the cardigans: "this woman is a virgin but has sucked 47 dicks; this man has his scrotum pierced; this man spends his spare time dressing up as Helen Shapiro during her 'Walking Back to Happiness' phase". One assumes that the passers-by gave their informed consent.

Murphy weaves an elaborate plot in which their lives and obsessions interlock. The porn addict finds herself with a couple having sex and is able to fast-forward reality. She directs their couplings, playing and rewinding so that the dancers hurtle magically backwards across the room, landing with a crash on the bed. Frightened by the fusion of fantasy and reality, she turns next to the lonely woman but is horrified to discover that her obsession with celluloid sex has made normal exchanges impossible. While her body dances tenderly with the lonely woman, her mind's carnal images are projected on the screens around her.

The destructive power of fantasy is finally brought home when the married couple get to act out the wife's cherished wish: a three-way swing. "When you see these people in the supermarket what do you think they're up to? Looking for the balsamic vinegar? Bullshit. They're cruising," reveals the voice-over with relish. Tolstoy once wrote of "the eternal error men make in imagining happiness to consist in the fulfilment of their desires". The husband discovers the truth of this when he sees his marriage destroyed by too close a brush with basic instincts. Luckily, Miss Lonelyhearts is still available and the two live happily ever after. Murphy allows us momentary enjoyment of this tidy resolution before all five characters suddenly form a twitching line stage-front. This is where we came in.

To Sat. Booking: 0171-387 0031