Sadler’s Wells Theatre
Reviewed – 21st May 2021
“Overflow has seized the moment, in an abstract, but none the less compelling way, to confront us with some of the most pressing consequences of 2020”
The much delayed London premiere of Overflow has now arrived at Sadlers Wells, and judging by the enthusiastic reaction of the audience, the long wait has been worth it. Billed as a response to “digital technology” and “a growing awareness of the impacts…on our thoughts, behaviour and actions in the world”, Overflow is another striking work by cutting edge choreographer, Alexander Whitley. The production is a contemplation of a world that threatens dystopia. Whitley’s signature choreography appears again as a stark, complicated dance of intersecting bodies and technology divided and united, in light and in darkness. Throughout Overflow, Whitley challenges our senses to distinguish between the two. He and the company—dancers, light and sound artists— all play with optical and auditory illusions that leave our perceptions overstimulated and fragile. And that is the point.
As you might expect, there is nothing restful or soothing in Overflow. The dance is beauty born out of dissonance, and the audience has to deal with all the unsettled and confusing feelings prompted by that. It begins with smoky darkness and a pounding beat. There is something apocalyptic about the music (Rival Consoles, courtesy of Erased Tapes) that will please fans of Ben Frost, best known for his work in the TV series Dark —another work that references dystopia. The dancers (Joshua Attwood, Hannah Ekholm, Tia Hockey, David Ledger, Jack Thomson, and Yu-Hsien Wu) are continually emerging from the gloom and melting into it, accompanied by a confusing mix of otherworldly sounds and distorted conversations. The work of lighting designer Guy Hoare, and the talents of the light installation company Children of the Light, are the energies that illuminate even as they confine. The rest of the team, Luca Biada (creative technology), Ana Rajcevic (biometric face masks and costumes) and dramaturgy by Sasha Milavic Davies, provide the finishing touches that make Overflow a satisfying, if discordant, production.
Don’t miss your chance to see the work of the Alexander Whitley Dance Company. It’s seventy minutes that will, at times, be uncomfortable to engage with—and you might want to think twice if you have problems with flashing lights. Otherwise, hurry on down to Sadler’s Wells and get a head start on the zeitgeist as we emerge from the pandemic. Overflow has seized the moment, in an abstract, but none the less compelling way, to confront us with some of the most pressing consequences of 2020. It is worth the unsettling journey.
Reviewed by Dominica Plummer
Photography by Johan Persson
Sadler’s Wells Theatre until 22nd May
Reviewed this year by Dominica: