Boy Blue has a difficult task on its hands. Pied Piper was a benchmark show that moved from Theatre Royal to the Barbican which then toured the UK. It’s the equivalent a musician returning to the studio to record their tricky second album when their first was so good. Over the Edge is an original concept with no existing storyline to refer to. Then again, with nothing to go with, there’s nothing to lose. Right?
Instead of basing Over the Edge on a piece of literature or poem, the inspiration was the humble magazine – in the case of Over the Edge a magazine so gripping the dancers get immersed reading it, page by page and scene by scene, that they live out the stories through dance.
The show programme, printed in the format of a glossy magazine, is literally what sets the context of what certain scenes in the show are about – fashion, alien abduction and breakfast.
And breakfast is how it opens, with the cast waking up, getting ready for work and hopping on the tube where the first full routine kicks in.
A table lying on its side with the dancers lying over it to simulate a top-down view was the first thing I hoped would skew reality with a few theatrical tricks, but it was only used for was a few risky flares and a clever metaphor of looking ‘over the edge.’ We said before that noone involved with Over the Edge were giving away any details about the show, so the first impressions here really counted.
Each page, or act, or location depending on your interpretation, of Over the Edge is assumed. Stage sets consist of a few basics props throughout, a table or a chair for most, and a projected video backdrop, emphasising the dance without adding too much gloss. It sets the scene, but is used sparingly, leaving the rest up to your imagination. In terms of theatricals, this is straight dance with little narrative. Before you’re climatised to the setting of the routine it’s already the next act.
Unusual Force was one scene where the visual effects were used quite effectively, although the strange concept of a possesive alien that takes over the abductees’ bodies causing them to strangle themselves and hurl each other away was just strange. It’s one of the first times I’ve seen Boy Blue dip their toe into contemporary for a full-length number and felt like more of a display of ability than a fitting piece.
The dancers even wore lycra, which is a stark contrast given the usual image of Boy Blue dancers wearing tracksuits. Watched over by an alien eye, a dancer strapped to an examination table while a strip of white light scans her (this was actually really creative directing from lighting designer Mike Gunning).
House of Blue was one of Over the Edge‘s highlights. A charismatic Turbo (Issac Baptiste) enters the stage listening to music on his headphones. Stepping into the club the beat extends beyond taking over the dancers all the way to the audience. As far as house choreography goes, House of Blue was one of the best routines I’ve seen in a show.
To illustrate the Boy Blue dancer’s musicality, Turbo assumes the role of a conductor, conducting each dancer to different parts of the music and the groove is captivating.
House of Blue transitions into the act Uip-Vop, a surreal, UV lit tutting scene. It looks amazing. Beginning with several dancers in white space suits the figures emerge on stage and start hitting Egyptian poses. It’s similar (but not biting) to something Medea Sirkas might perform. Adding to the effect is the crazy soundtrack it’s set to while the dancer chant the words wearing UV reflecting lip paint.
The soundtrack is pumped right up throughout the show with Mikey J providing some incredible tunes that are crisp and thumping. Thanks to smoothe mixing the scenes within the acts are seamless. The music compliments each style perfectly and shows Mikey’s versatility in relationship to the dancing, whether its for breaking or krumping.
Choreography, needless to be said, is perfect. Aside from an almost non-existent dance section during a catwalk sequence all the choreography was on point, well blocked with nice formation changes, and although pushing abilities of the dancers was executed effortlessly.
As you can’t fault Over the Edge on choreography or performance it has to be its pace that might leave you feeling like it ended too soon! At 70 minutes and no interval you wish that there were more acts to extend it slightly thus allowing for a break to take in what you saw. Metaphorically speaking, this magazine could have done with a few more sections and a pull out!
That said, if you can bear to watch the show finish as it feels like it’s picking up, Boy Blue has provided its audience with several outstanding acts you will be talking about after. House of Blue and I’ll leave it at that.
Over the edge is at the Barbican from 21-26 July.
Over the Edge cast