Sadler’s Wells Theatre
Reviewed – 3rd March 2020
“a hyperaware choreography of multiple realities, alive to the possibilities of reconfiguration and reorientation”
Canadian company Kidd Pivot present Gogol’s Government Inspector as their latest collaboration between dancers and the spoken word at Sadler’s Wells this week. Crystal Pite, as choreographer and director, and writer Jonathon Young, take this well loved classic of the Russian stage, and turn it into something utterly unanticipated. It is a piece true to its roots—Pite and Young give their work Gogol’s Russian title Revizor (literally, inspector)—but in changing one letter in the title, they form a pun in English. It allows them to take us on a journey as unexpected as that of Gogol’s protagonist Khlestakov, when he winds up in a small provincial town to discover that he is mistaken for an important “government inspector.” By changing the ‘z’ to ’s’, Kidd Pivot’s subsequent ‘re-vision’ is not only an opportunity to ‘re-imagine’ Revizor but to re-configure their creative process as the dance proceeds. The company quite literally puts the whole process on stage.
It’s hard to describe how Revisor unfolds in words, even though, ironically, words form so much of the “music” that moves the dancers. In any given moment, Revisor is weaving together words spoken by off stage actors, often with additional music and sound effects underneath, and with lighting and even furniture, all in seamless synchronicity. The piece begins conventionally enough, with Gogol’s characters assembling to share the news that a mysterious stranger has arrived in town. We watch the dancers’ bodies respond, staccato-like, to each syllable of a text spoken by unseen actors. The dancers’ costumes (designed by Nancy Bryant) work well in the series of tableaux which the dancers configure and reconfigure the satirical intent of Gogol’s story. Particularly brilliant are dancers Jermaine Spivey as Postmaster Wieland, and Cindy Salgado as Anna, wife of the Director. But added to all this is the Choreographer’s own voice, creating and recreating the instructions for the dance. And it is her voice that causes everything else (from furniture or doorways flying in, or lightning strikes on a backdrop) to move as she makes one choice, then erases it in favour of another. It is this rich, multi-layered texture of the dance; the voices of the characters; the music and sound design (Owen Belton, Alessandro Juliani, and Meg Roe); the scenic design and the lighting (Jay Gower Taylor and Tom Visser), that takes us out of Gogol’s nineteenth century world and into a world that is very twenty-first. It is a hyperaware choreography of multiple realities, alive to the possibilities of reconfiguration and reorientation. And in watching, we realise that this is what Gogol was aiming for all along—a play of fantastic meetings and hyperbolic movements that seem no more real than fever dreams, but fever dreams that poor bodies must respond to, whether in ecstatic hope or dashed ambition.
Revisor begins with Gogol’s play, but mid performance it transforms into the abstract movements that are Kidd Pivot’s signature. Pite and Young’s vision plays out as an endless loop in which the dancers’ bodies twist and turn in extraordinary patterns that are always attempting to come together, only to be forced apart. In the endless quest to find new configurations, these restless dancers find the creative energy that drives the dance on. Eventually, almost leisurely, they find a way back to Gogol’s Khlestakov—a man trapped in the middle of a vast emptiness populated only with frustrated desire. He catches the imaginations of those he meets, he is caught in their schemes. But at the last moment, he (and the dancers) break free so that the dance can begin again.
Kidd Pivot’s take on The Government Inspector is an exhilarating evening that will appeal to dance fans and theatre goers alike. Don’t miss the opportunity to see this extraordinary company.
Reviewed by Dominica Plummer
Sadler’s Wells Theatre until 5th March
Previously reviewed at this venue: