Sadler’s Well Theatre
Reviewed – 18th May 2021
“a thrilling showcase of elegance, talent and so much vivacity, it is genuinely breath-taking”
By god, how awful must a show have had to seem, how incredibly dull, how acutely offensive, for me not to have leapt at the chance to escape my ever-shrinking living room for an evening. Even the schizophrenic weather- now sunny, now hailing, now lashing rain- couldn’t have stopped me from skipping out of my front door, mask and sanitiser in hand.
So it goes, I arrive an hour early (a little too keen perhaps), drenched to the skin and grinning like a mad person who hasn’t spoken to any strangers in fourteen months. Luckily ‘Reunion’ is the perfect show to start the year (in May!)
Bringing together five pieces from five eminent choreographers, the English National Ballet delivers a thrilling showcase of elegance, talent and so much vivacity, it is genuinely breath-taking.
Some are simply beautiful. Yuri Possokhov’s ‘Senseless Kindness’, for example, is set bravely to Shostakovich’s Piano Trio No1, and sees four dancers slipping exquisitely in and out of synchronicity, vacillating with the music between romance and pugnacity.
Others are a quaking reminder of how gloriously exciting and invigorating live performance can be. ‘Take Five Blues’, choreographed by Stina Quagebar, is something like if the Jets and the Sharks actually got on really well. At times bordering on the chaotic, these eight dancers seem like they’re having just the best time, expressing playfulness and glee with every bounding leap, every meteoric pirouette.
There are occasions, however, when the accoutrements are in danger of overshadowing. For the first two performances we are graced with the English National Ballet Philharmonic, and there is more than one moment when I find my eye drawn, not to the dancers, but to the violinist bowing low, husky harmonics, or the mezzo soprano (Catherine Backhouse) singing Purcell’s ‘When I Am Laid’ with boundless pathos.
The lighting too is artfully crafted, and nearly the only design aspect throughout. That being said, there’d hardly be any room for anything else. Russell Maliphant’s work could even be described as a dance-light collaboration, rather than one accompanying the other. Video artist Panagiotis Tomaras creates a spectacular of frantic, dappling speckles, aqueous pools and dizzying stripes racing across the stage, coalescing with the dancers’ movements and creating entirely new shapes and effects.
Never was an audience so ready for a show, and even at half-capacity as necessitated by covid, we’re applauding, whooping, even foot-stomping with such ardour at any given opportunity, it feels like a heaving full house. Are we a little more enthused because it’s the first show back? Is this review a little more glowing? Does a man enjoy a meal more if he’s starving? Who’s to say? Who cares? I was ravenous. Who isn’t right now.
Reviewed by Miriam Sallon
Image: Fernanda Oliveira and Fabian Reimair in Echoes, a film by Michael Nunn and William Trevitt, choreographed by Russell Maliphant © English National Ballet
Sadler’s Well Theatre until 30th May
Reviewed by Miriam this year: