More like the Wayne Sleep

Dansehallerne, a vibrant converted warehouse located in the impressive shadows of the Carlsberg brewery complex, has a reputation for being the dance centre that never sleeps. In the middle of a bustling April programme is an intriguing piece called I’m short, I’m Bogart. The teasing title has its origins in the distinctive Bogie-Bacall fast-flowing repartee from The Big Sleep: Vivian (Lauren Bacall): My, you’re a mess, aren’t you? Marlowe (Humphrey Bogart): I’m not very tall either. Next time, I’ll come on stilts, wear a white tie and carry a tennis racket.

Dancers Kasper Daugaard Poulsen and Mari Matre Larsen twist and manipulate the celluloid classic into a “neo-noir meta crime story”, inspired by the irresistible and unforgettable on-screen chemistry and dialogue of Bogart and Bacall. When Poulsen and Larsen originally viewed the film noir standard, The Big Sleep, they quickly developed a deep fascination in the genre and its classic familiar elements of murder, booze, cigarettes, guns, the femme fatale and the tough-talking detective. The film itself is far from straightforward. Indeed, at the time of its 1946 release, critic Bosley Crowther said: “The Big Sleep is one of those pictures in which so many cryptic things occur amid so much involved and devious plotting that the mind becomes utterly confused. And, to make it more aggravating, the brilliant detective in the case is continuously making shrewd deductions which he stubbornly keeps to himself.”

It was especially the inscrutability and ambiguity of the plot that appealed to the dance/choreographer duo of Poulsen and Larsen. As author of the book, Raymond Chandler wrote in a letter: “They sent me a wire … asking me, and dammit I didn’t know either.” The performance turns this impenetrability on its head and playfully tampers with the movie to create an entirely new stage performance. The defined visual style with its stereotypically distinct use of light, shadow and audio track will be instantly familiar to the audience, but a sharp pair of scissors has been mercilessly applied to the sound reel of the movie. A bit of cutting and re-editing of the dialogue, with little respect for the storyline, shapes a wholly different experience − one that may leave those familiar with the movie struggling to recognise the original.

In the performance, the two characters on stage attempt to recreate certain elements from the film. Sometimes this is done through dance and movement, sometimes by other means. “We haven’t focused much on narrative; it is more a question of composition, reproduction and execution,” explained Poulsen. “The primary goal has been to see how much you can rearrange chronology and still retain a meaningful story.” The idea of how attempts at reproduction inevitably lead to distortion intrigues Poulsen. It is especially a fascination in that which is no longer there: the elements lost in translation. 

The two performers also collaborated on Forestillinger from 2006, a performance that is equally driven by a desire to play with the audience’s preconceptions, interrogate the senses and question ways of comprehending and experiencing. “You present an idea, draw up a plan – which the audience is made aware of – but you don’t tell them how it will be executed,” Poulsen continued. “In Bogart we also play around with people’s aesthetic expectations and the images they create when they hear the audio.”

When asked what the audience can expect to see, Larsen doesn’t give too much away, but replies: “Two characters careering around the stage trying to re-enact and reinterpret a classic film, while over and underplaying misplaced elements from the original.” The classic whodunnit detective genre is taken to a more complex level with the additional enigma of who exactly has created the performance itself. The plot thickens.

This is another creative and thought-provoking 60 minutes hosted by Dansehallerne where the performers dance with the dialogue. Will the audience be left confused and scratching their heads? Quite probably, but this is in keeping with the original. Time magazine described the film as “wakeful fare for folks who don’t care what is going on, or why, so long as the talk is hard and the action harder”. There will be plenty of hard talk and action in I’m short, I’m Bogart. However, be warned: not all the talk and action will be as it appears on the surface.


I’m Short, I’m Bogart 

Lille Carl at Dansehallerne, Pasteursvej 20, Cph V; starts Thu (April 18), ends April 21, daily performances at 20:00; tickets 60-130kr,;;

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