Murder on the Dancefloor
Venue: Pleasance Courtyard
Physical theatre company Spies Like Us bring their latest piece to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Written and directed by Ollie Norton-Smith, Murder on the Dancefloor lacks a cohesive style and is plagued by its juvenile narrative.
Sabrina is surrounded by friends progressing in their careers and renting their own properties. News that her father is selling the family home and her recently returned friend is moving in with her brother, signals an unpleasant turn of events for Sabrina.
One might think that the inclusion of Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s high camp dancepop track Murder on the Dancefloor in the play’s title would signal a sense of fun, yet this is neglected for black humour. Norton-Smith’s narrative attempts to explore Sabrina’s friendship group, but there is an air of unpleasantness around them – cutting each other with put-downs, unhappy for each other’s success and loitering around a dingy pub. They lack any sense of being a cohesive friendship group with none of the characters likeable or convincing enough to invest us in the events that follow.
We see Sabrina surrounded by these ‘friends’ on an upwards trajectory as she sits in stagnant water, whilst a subplot sees her brother take advantage of a recently returned friend. Presumably the idea is to showcase individuals pushed to desperation, yet without much sense of humanity in these caricatures, it is challenging to be drawn into the unpleasantness with Murder on the Dancefloor opting for the concept that people are not inherently good. With a lack of subtlety and a lack of natural build-up – events escalate to ridiculous proportions as the play hits its final act. It is an extreme, over-the-top and tonally unpleasant end to the play.
This narrative is paired with physical theatre approaches which do little to advance the story. Obscure movements with tape measures and a consistent sense of busyness on stage gives Murder on the Dancefloor a further lack of conviction. Nostalgic music choices and obscure costumes – boys in oversized t-shirts and shirts with short trousers, girls in cantaloupe coloured sixties style trousers and tops – furthers the lack of cohesiveness in Murder on the Dancefloor.
With a narrative that lacks any sense of subtlety and jumps to dramatic extremes, odd aesthetic choices and characters that lack conviction, Murder on the Dancefloor is an incohesive, tonally unpleasant piece.