Sadler’s Wells Theatre
Reviewed – 27th November 2018
“a hybrid piece of dance-musical theatre with as much emphasis on the tech as the physical performers and music”
Dancers Honji Wang, Sébastien Ramirez and vocalist Eva Stone bring Nitin Sawhney’s 2015 album Dystopian Dream to life in this compelling performance. This fusion of hip-hop, contemporary ballet and aerial work accompanied by live singing, artful visuals and beautiful costumes is a feast for eyes and ears.
Sawhney has written scores for TV and film as well as releasing multiple studio albums, with his full body of work earning him the 2017 Ivor Novello Lifetime Achievement Award. Sawhney has composed music for the Sadler’s Wells stage before, having worked with Akram Khan since 2002. Where Dystopian Dream differs is that the dance performance has been born after engagement with the music, rather than a collaborative process between composer and choreographer.
Company Wang Ramirez’s interpretation reflects the genre-bending nature of the music, taking inspiration from breaking to ballet and combining these with complex and clever aerial work. As performers, Honji Wang and Sébastien Ramirez have distinctly personal modes of expression which are, on their own, engaging to watch. The most exciting moments, however, come from the unique blend of their styles in duets between the pair, particularly during the track ‘Dark Day’ accompanied by the haunting vocals of Eva Stone.
Stone’s presence on stage is mesmerising; on more than one occasion did I find myself watching her sing in relative darkness, as opposed to the better lit and more active dancers. That is not to say that Stone’s only role on stage is to sing. Quite the opposite. She joins Wang and Ramirez in a playful pas de trois, is hung and swung around the stage and finally stood on top of, all whilst elevating the soundtrack with her darkly soulful voice. It’s truly impressive how flawless she sounds throughout.
Shizuka Hariu’s modernist set design is integral to the performance. Spread between two tiers connected by a curved ramp, it was able to cast its own shapes and shadows onto the stage, by virtue of Natasha Chivers’ lighting design. Yet it also provided a surface on which to project and enhance the interactive visual effects developed by Yeast Culture, lead by Nick Hillel.
This is not your average show. It’s a hybrid piece of dance-musical theatre with as much emphasis on the tech as the physical performers and music. The aerial operators, visuals, set, lighting and costumes by Hussein Chalayan all come together to create a whole much greater than just the sum of its parts.
Reviewed by Amber Woodward
Photography by Johan Persson
Sadler’s Wells Theatre
Previously reviewed at this venue: