The Roof has so much promise. An outdoors immersive show performed entirely on a panoramic platform above the audience’s heads to a soundtrack relayed through individual headphone sets and with the inner city night’s sky for a backdrop. The concept for the piece – a 3D videogame with multiple levels performed by a cast of dancers – is also hopeful.
And yet this production fails to lift off. Once we’ve got over the (admittedly entertaining) gimmick of watching actors replicate the movements of video game characters; once the conceit of the videogame as a metaphor for life has been clearly established; once the set has performed all the tricks in its armory – we’re left feeling like we’re watching an actually-bit-dull retro Sega game over the shoulder of some familiar child or infantile contemporary. This wave of enervation comes less than half way through; and it’s palpable standing in the pit, as people start shifting their weight from one foot to the other, looking for a place to sit, or not bothering to turn around anymore to see if they’re missing anything.
Really the thing wants to go sandbox; it wants to escape the parameters it has set for itself – but for whatever reason it fails to do so. We just go on to the next level: similar monsters, similar themes. Where The Roof does attempt to spin out into something out of the ordinary, it depends on tired Lynchian tropes – slinky dancing, people with animal masks, menacing ciphers etc., that for me failed to excite.
Fuel have done some interesting work in the past, but this production is lacking. With its videogame motifs, futuristic setting, surrealist aspirations and outdoor promenade staging, it really reminded me of Teatru Biuro Podróży’s Planeta Lem, which showed at Edinburgh in 2012 – a totally strange and frenetic futuristic romp. Yet where Teatru Biuro Podróży created an experience, Fuel have made a spectacle. If it were striking enough, that might be Ok – but even on this front it feels a bit lacking.
Fuel have raised the bar for themselves by having produced a high standard of work to date and by having developed such an ambitious concept on this project. It’s a miss – but still: commendable, and often entertaining.