Marjorie's World Unhinged, Laban Theatre, London <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

Something about Marjorie
Click to follow

Maresa von Stockert's new show starts with a skewed ballet class. Literally: the dancers lie on their sides as they do barre exercises, so that we watch them as if from above. As they move from stretches to allegro exercises, they have to roll and scramble against the floor, gravity pulling them from all the wrong angles.

Von Stockert's company, Tilted Productions, specialises in dance theatre, telling odd stories with movement and voiceover. Her productions are distinctive, slipping from the matter-of-fact to the creepy. Her most admired work, the award-winning Grim(m) Desires, played with fairy-tale narratives. Perhaps those older stories gave her discipline, an established shape to play with. Marjorie's World Unhinged wanders around its central ideas, with some sketches much sharper than others.

There are big themes - ageing, appearance, dance, work - perhaps too many for a single show. Joy Constantinides plays the older ballerina Marjorie, berating students or hanging on to leading roles in a second-rate company. Around her, other characters pursue their own obsessions. Her husband and son work in a balloon factory, her niece rebels against ballet, a young rival takes her roles.

The tone is never naturalistic. Teaching together, Marjorie and her sister are hooked into a Siamese-twin skirt and sweater, though each has her own string of pearls. A patronising boss, played by Charlie Fowler, looms from a film screen. The ballet students obsessively study swans, or aim for lightness by tying helium balloons to their limbs.

However, for all their weirdness, they do remain human. Although Von Stockert laughs at their eccentricities, she doesn't jeer. And neither do her dancers, who give serious, direct performances.

Speech in dance theatre, is hard to pull off. Von Stockert's scripts are witty and well-focused, sometimes stronger than her movement ideas. Adrian Stokes provides a terrifically deadpan voiceover. His voice darkens but his composure never breaks.

The dance scenes are best when they have a specific theme. Some solos, more general expressions of mood, quickly become bland. After the early ballet scenes, there's little narrative momentum. There are slack passages, with some failed or overextended scenes. It's easy to lose patience, but there's still something distinctive about Von Stockert's work, an individual outlook, its own particular atmosphere.

Touring to 8 March 2007 (