Opening the door on life: Rambert in Rooms by Jo Strømgren

Livestream from Rambert Studios on Rambert Home Studio
April 8, 2021

Maggie Foyer

Jo Strømgren can do choreography in a more standard, recognisable form; his neoclassical Suite is a half hour of heaven for three couples, a pianist and a grand piano. However, he is better known for finding his material in the oddities of human behaviour where he embraces the ‘other’ with a passion.

In Rooms, his sharp eyes and keen intellect explore our shared basic human emotions of love, hate, despair and jealousy in diverse dress and surroundings. There is dialogue but the message comes across chiefly through movement and situation as a bewildering series of doors lead the action through infinite spaces. It’s a bumpy rollercoaster, illuminated by points of clarity and constantly entertaining.

Guillaume Quéau, Alex Soulliere, Aishwarya Raut and Max Day in Jo Strømgren's RoomsPhoto Camilla Greenwell
Guillaume Quéau, Alex Soulliere, Aishwarya Raut and Max Day
in Jo Strømgren’s Rooms
Photo Camilla Greenwell

The humour is dark and at times violent. A man, probably a nice guy at the office, batters his partner with a frying pan. Then cut to the Jewish Orthodox man carefully carrying his precious radio while his wife, several paces behind, bears the load. Then to a screaming woman seeking revenge with a gun, while a gorilla, bearing a £19.99 price tag, observes.

There is lighter humour in the bedroom farce. A Lothario, well played by Guillaume Quéau, is working out in bed with a blonde when his partner with wheelie bag returns unexpectedly. There is no denouement, as it is surprising what a duvet can cover. The passions shift back and forth and the final kiss and make-up is between the two women with the duvet again doing good service. In the midst of the chaos there the ordinary annoyances as a stranger switches plugs to charge his radio causing the lights to go out in your world.

Move to the interview studio, where an intellectual is promoting his new book in pithy phrases as the sharp-witted interviewer, with help from the control room keeps just a tad ahead. In the fun of it all there is a chill moment when the open door reveals a brick wall, and a noose seems the best way out.

The dancers, who run a gamut of extraordinary characters, prove to also be astoundingly good actors, playing police, divas, musicians and a range of ordinary and unusual folk. Strømgren looks at the broad canvas of life, stamps out pieces like a jigsaw puzzle and throws them in the air to see where they’ll land. But behind the nonchalance is keen insight and astute understanding of what makes humans so appealing and appalling.