Oxford’s Café Reason Butoh Dance Theatre probably have something of a reputation for performances that push dance and movement to the outer limits of expectation. It is true that butoh, as an experimental dance form originating in Japan, works by creating improvised dance that takes a symbolic knife straight to the raw emotions most of us are so careful to keep in the shade. The resulting performances can be taut, charged and long. But in their latest evening of music and dance, Matrix at the Pegasus Theatre, Café Reason have managed to work the miracle of mixing the mystery and symbolism on which butoh feeds with lightness, energy and humour.

Rather than long improvisations, Matrix consisted of ten short and wonderfully contrasting pieces, many of which were obviously carefully timed and rehearsed while others remained improvisations within a short time span. For a small group there was a remarkable range of approaches and angles, with too much to detail everything here. Flavia Coupe’s Air Eater, with music by Malcolm Atkins, managed to create a world of nothing and mystery that had all the latent meaning of a Beckett play, while Ana Barbour’s Still Standing used the visual forms of dance, enhanced by superb lighting effects and video projection from Christopher Nairne and Dariusz Dziala to create a perceptive human mythology. Ana Barbour’s solo performance commented tellingly on strangeness and disability with more exceptional video. Symbio-sis, more theatre than dance, dealt with the constraints of domestic security with good humour, while Ayala Kingsley’s solo performance used both humour and symbolic gesture to unveil our addiction to the material world. Narrative was most used to great effect in Jeannie Donald-McKim’s cunning final piece on rebellion and role reversal. This exceptionally enjoyable evening was further enhanced by the use of live music from Bruno Guastalla and Pete Mcphail, great musicians and remarkable improvisers, adding a live dimension to the enveloping music from Malcolm Atkins, and working humorously with Jeannie Donald-McKim in her interact persona as the bizarre yet warm-hearted Ma Trixie who came as close to a silent pantomime dame as butoh is able.