Building on the success of previous years, the newest show from Spies Like Us, Murder On The Dancefloor, tells the story of Sabrina (Phoebe Campbell), a twenty-something who finds herself newly confronted with the difficult realities of ‘the big bad world’ alongside her three Uni friends and mysterious newbie, Louis (Alex Holley).
First impressions are good, with Sabrina and friends illuminated in the glow of a pub quiz machine before breaking out into a beautifully choreographed routine which pops and fizzes, showcasing the performers precision, skill and breakneck energy.
Flitting between Sabrina’s increasingly fractious home life and the breakdown of her friendship group, things gradually start to take a darker turn reflected in increasingly frantic and violent set plays as themes of frustration and jealousy begin to take their toll on the group.
Scenes are defined by the clever use of three lamps, two boxes and a flurry of measuring tape prodded and twisted around a contortion of limbs. Indeed, as we are greeted at the door with 90’s disco pumping and the cast chatting amiably with the audience, there is a palpable air of fun and positivity.
Unfortunately, the momentum of the opening quarter hour is undone by a plot that struggles to clearly define itself or move forward effectively. What begins as a celebration of teenage nostalgia and youthful exuberance quickly gives way to a rather overwrought and muddled narrative.
The constant requirement for the cast to play in dual roles messes with the separation of each character and only serves to stultify and confuse the plot. Saying that, it’s hard to become emotionally invested in what is essentially five millennial age friends pissing and moaning about not having a job or still having to live with their parents.
What is never in doubt, however, is the commendable skill and relentless effort of the cast who aren’t helped by the narrow and frankly oppressive performance space. Being in such close proximity to the action provides a genuine thrill watching the company’s spiky and intricate style of physical theatre. Unfortunately, the gaps between those moments become increasingly elongated, shortening the attention span in the process.
When the show moves towards the inevitable finale hinted at in the show’s title, it’s fair to say that both audience and performers are feeling energy sapped, which makes you question the wisdom of having such a high energy show in a glorified shipping container.
As Sabrina is ensconced in her final predicament, the good vibes which earlier promised to boom, boom, shake the room have turned tail and morphed into an existential crisis of which Morrissey would’ve been proud to warble about. It’s a shame someone killed the groove.