Running on Empty at the Soho Theatre
A dance drama about emptiness, struggle and survival, Running on Empty is an interesting combination of movement, song and text from dance theatre company Probe.
A raw, abstract examination of human emotion, it maintains a punchy sense of direction despite an opening that seems to take its time to get into its swing. Like a tangled thread desperately trying to straighten itself out, Running on Empty runs without a strict narrative but sustains focus by consistently returning to the struggle of overcoming the void of loss. Probe’s artistic director Antonia Grove performs with Greig Cooke as her performance partner and Scott Smith, who provides the music and soundscape of the show.
The sharper, more intense moments of choreography prove to be the most captivating; a sequence that evokes the turmoil and struggle of a small boat being tossed among the waves particularly showcases Grove and Cooke’s physical strength and precision. They excel at being able to propel both the smallest nuance and the grandest sweep together in one.
If there is a standout performance here, it is that of Grove, who is both ethereal yet earthy, resilient yet fragile. Both her and Cooke are onstage at all times but it is clear that it is her story they are telling. Smith’s musical accompaniment is wonderfully atmospheric, and at times particularly funny. Managing two guitars, a clarinet and a harmonica as well as vocals is impressive enough, but he executes them all with impact and soul.
The two songs that frame the piece are piercing and haunting, particularly in the show’s closing moments when Grove returns to the microphone after another exasperating sequence. The song itself is wistful and full of sadness but her breathlessness gives it all the more depth.
It is at times difficult to engage with this show. There are moments when it seems to be playing inside the mind of someone else, that we cannot see into. But for all its difficult moments it also provides ones of beauty and strength.
Running on Empty is at the Soho Theatre until 16th February 2014. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch the trailer for Running on Empty here: