Tag Archives: Abi Davies

Rite of Spring
★★★★★

Sadler’s Wells Theatre

Rite of Spring

Rite of Spring

Sadler’s Wells Theatre

Reviewed – 9th May 2019

★★★★★

 

“the glorious, stylised sketches of now alien rituals keep the audience spellbound”

 

As we enter to the sound of chanting, a single red-robed monk moves carved Chinese characters from a human-sized heap into flat lines around the stage. Behind him, ten dancers sit cross-legged. They wear richly-coloured bodysuits and gold headdresses dripping with jewels. A gong strikes sonorously. The scene is arresting. It’s going to be a spectacular night.

Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring caused a scandal when it was first performed in Paris in 1913. While the choreography of the original dance has been lost, one can imagine that if it was anything like director and choreographer Yang Liping’s creation, indeed it might raise eyebrows. Exploring pagan springtime rituals, including human sacrifice, invariably calls for some powerful iconography, and Liping’s handling is no exception. We’re treated to sometimes graphic moments of sexuality, fertility, fecundity and rebirth.

As the performance begins the statuesque godlike figures who had remained stock-still as the auditorium filled begin to move, seeming to crackle and flex with the arrival of spring. Dancers genuflect towards the light as if awakening from sleep. Later, a single dancer, nymph-like, is brought to awakening by a huge Chinese dragon-style shaman. The athleticism on display is remarkable.

These opening scenes also give us an early introduction to the astonishing affordance of this visual design (no surprise, given it comes courtesy of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’s Tim Yip) as the enormous convex disc backing onto the stage rises and falls. This fantastic piece of engineering and design, thanks to exemplary lighting (Fabiana Piccioli) and clever use of projections (Tobias Gremmler), variously calls to mind a pool, a cloud, the red sun of the Chinese flag and a Tibetan singing bowl. It’s hypnotic.

And lighting is artful throughout. A darkened but neon-lit scene is especially entrancing, as fluid group movement and fluorescent costumes variously transform the dancers into flowers, fields of grass and frenzied dryads. Pagan wildness is shot through the piece, and the solitary monk, never leaving the stage, continues to arrange and rearrange the piles of golden Chinese characters as if seeking to restore order. His work is smashed in scenes of wild dancing, but as we leave the auditorium he remains, silently arranging the characters, and the closing scene offers a promise of peace as our human sacrifice is reborn. This moment is truly a thing of beauty, as the dancer flows mercurially around the disc. Inspired staging ensures that she is as luminous as a Pepper’s ghost before she descends into a final serene meditation.

The astonishing staging and performances on display here ensure that this production is spectacle as much as it is dance, and the glorious, stylised sketches of now alien rituals keep the audience spellbound.

Yang Liping’s Rite of Spring will be touring to Edinburgh International Festival this summer, 22-24 August 2019.

 

Reviewed by Abi Davies

Photography by Li Yijan

 


Rite of Spring

Sadler’s Wells Theatre until 11th May

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Medusa | ★★★½ | October 2018
The Emperor and the Concubine | ★★★★ | October 2018
Dystopian Dream | ★★★★★ | November 2018
Layla and Majnun | ★★★½ | November 2018
Tom | ★★★★ | November 2018
Swan Lake | ★★★★★ | December 2018
Bon Voyage, Bob | ★★½ | February 2019
The Thread | ★★½ | March 2019
Mitten Wir Im Leben Sind/Bach6Cellosuiten | ★★★★★ | April 2019

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com

 

Getting Over Everest
★★★

Hope Theatre

Getting Over Everest

Getting Over Everest

The Hope Theatre

Reviewed – 29th April 2019

★★★

 

“a little more finesse in both writing and performance could have shifted things up a gear from good to really, really great”

 

Being dumped sucks. Being dumped after a decade in a relationship? Well… that’s something else. Natasha Santos’ script and performance explores the trauma – and ultimate redemption – in forensic detail.

The Everest of the title is Rob Everest, Libby’s (now) ex-boyfriend and sometime nemesis. Santos has great fun as Libby, clearly enjoying the playfulness of her script and exerting considerable charisma. And she gives us lots to enjoy; Libby regales us with her woes via clever musical accompaniment and much wit. We’re treated to flashbacks to her childhood friendship to the strains of the Spice Girls, an excruciating workout class to Salt-N-Pepa and, poignantly, José González’ Heartbeats as we see the first glimmers of Libby’s hope for a new life.

The music choices are uniformly great (what better break-up song is there than Nothing Compares 2 U?) and special mention must go to the choreography, which is hilariously on point. The trio flick into movements in perfect unison (including a memorable impersonation of Libby’s ex’s sexual prowess), adding a polish to the fast-moving performance.

With all the riotous humour of the piece, though, the production can at times feel overdone. Characterisations, such as that of Libby’s ghastly colleague Sandra, can creep towards parodic gurning, and this does a disservice to the quality acting on offer (both of Santos’ fellow actors Grace Dunne and George Vafakis more than hold their own here, with some beautifully wry performances). Some of the more extreme caricatures of heartbreak feel more than a little hackneyed, as Libby knocks back the Pinot and drunk dials Rob to sing Whitney down the line. And small details can feel distracting and detract from an otherwise smooth production; pretending to swig from empty wine bottles feels like a mimicry too far, for example.

It’s great to see such a defiantly female-led production, from Santos as writer and lead to director Katherine Timms and especially great work from technical designer Abi Toghill. And it’s an appealing production, too. Just a little more finesse in both writing and performance could have shifted things up a gear from good to really, really great.

 

Reviewed by Abi Davies

 


Getting Over Everest

Hope Theatre

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
The Dog / The Cat | ★★★★★ | September 2018
The Lesson | ★★★★ | September 2018
Jericho’s Rose | ★★★½ | October 2018
Gilded Butterflies | ★★ | November 2018
Head-rot Holiday | ★★★★ | November 2018
Alternativity | ★★★★ | December 2018
In Conversation With Graham Norton | ★★★ | January 2019
The Ruffian On The Stair | ★★★★ | January 2019
Thrill Me: The Leopold & Loeb Story | ★★★★★ | April 2019
Uncle Vanya | ★★★★ | April 2019

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com