Review: Rehearsal for Death at La Mama

Review By Alice Mooney


We all love the tough questions. For me, I especially enjoy the ones that have no definite answers. It’s all about the discussion, the narrative, the elaborate hypotheticals and ideas; it’s like a dance. When it comes to life, we’ve heard all the metaphors. But what about death? Is death like ‘a box ‘o’ chocolates’ or ‘sands through the hourglass’? Sophie Thompson and Rebekah Stuart deliver a 45-minute alternative perspective, that attempts to metaphorically define death through the art of physical theatre. In a series of movements and moments both dark and energetic, Rehearsal for Death leaves you enthralled. The two artists explore, key themes all centred around death and its ceaseless presence.


The first of the two performers, Sophie Thompson, demonstrates a sincere classical edge. She moves with conviction and poise, evoking emotional responses in her expression. Rebekah Stuarts demonstrates a strong presence both contemporary in movement and commanding in expression. Individually they contrast well to create conflict and drama on stage. Their chemistry and flare shines when they move in unison and it was powerful to witness against such a difficult macabre theme. They delve into physical alteration, decay, unspoken emotions, grief, anger and pain. They demonstrate a myriad of physical skills to explore these themes while striking a balance in pace to provide tension and energy.


Minimal props were evenly utilised through-out as well as taking full advantage of La Mama’s ‘once upon a time’ fireplace as an eerie lit portal. It felt mapped out and routine. In other words, choice of direction and movement came across as purposeful and high impact. The lighting effectively enhanced both dramatic and uplifting moments without drawing attention from the performers. It cast a defining sense of limbo in which these two bodies could navigate. There were sound elements that played an interesting omnipresent role to add another layer to this multi-dimensional performance. In these moments, tech helped to heighten the absurdity and discomfort of certain elements but without completely overwhelming their audience. Just when you feel you may be left behind, they manage to draw you back in, which is a testament to both sound and choreography.


There is a distinct grouping of narratives in Rehearsal for death that come together in a performance that leaves you sitting at curtain call, racking your brain to try and untangle the performance like a puzzle. The dance style is fresh and transcending. Stuart and Thompson communicate determinative attitudes that match their strength and discipline required to execute the difficult choreography. There really are moments where the girl’s bodies act like a complete separate agent from their mind. It’s really cool.


Rehearsal for Death is Created, produced, directed and performed by Thompson and Stuart whose efforts are clearly rewarded in a fantastic performance. If like me, you’ve had limited exposure to physical theatre, this is a perfect place to reconnect an often-overlooked genre of theatre. It’s a refreshing change to see dance and movement as the primary storyteller and La Mama theatre provide the ideal space with the always pleasurable and loyal audience to join.


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All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.

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