Dance Review: Rambert Mixed Bill

Where: Sadler’s Wells / When: 25th October 2013

Rambert performed three mid-length works: Subterrain (chor. Ashley Page), A Comedy of Change (chor. Mark Baldwin) and Castaways (chor. Barak Marshall)

Together, these works seemed to be exploring our most primal instincts; our origins and our responses to stress. There was a strange, alien feeling throughout and the performances worked as the best dance should – evoking an instinctual, emotive reaction.

The first, Subterrain seemed to explore some sort of apocalyptic future. The set dressing was sparse; a grate-like image was projected onto the floor, echoing the suggestion of an underground life hinted at in the title. The opening was frenetic, full of a sense of urgency. As the piece progressed, this energy was replaced by a sense of quiet desperation and a sort of hollow seeming sadness. The dancers in the piece seemed to become more and more desperate, clinging to each other as the mood changes. The music had a spooky, edgy feel and there was a sense of unease and tension undercutting throughout. The dancers had a mesmerising fluidity and lent a good deal of longing to their movements.

A Comedy of Change is probably one of the stranger (and more pretentious) things I’ve seen in the theatre, but was strangely compelling nonetheless. While the work is based on Darwin’s theory of evolution, it also reminded me of aliens discovering life on earth – there was an odd, unreal quality to the dancers’ movements, as if they’d just discovered the power of their own limbs. The uniform, unisex costumes added to the otherworldliness. Again, the music was spooky and unsettling and I felt almost afraid of these oddly bent creatures on stage. There were nice little dots of humour throughout, which were well timed, considering the bleaker tone of the bookending works.

Castaways was full of a strange, surrealist joy. It had a big brother-esque atmosphere, with 12 strangers stranded on an island against their will, with no idea of why or what was to come, always watched by an unseen force. The work combined speech with movement, which I enjoyed. It was interesting to see the dancers able to mix it up, performance wise. The work was full of vibrancy and colour and was utterly compelling to watch. The clashing styles of music added to the sense of rising panic and the dancers’ movements felt like they were beyond their control – as if they were puppets under someone else’s direction. There was also a sense of familiarity or repetition; as if they had done this a million times before, and would do so a million times after. I liked the decision to break the fourth wall and turn the lights on the audience towards the end. .

The Rambert dancers were spectacular throughout and I felt moved and thought provoked. Well worth a watch.

Disclaimer: All reviews are my personal opinions and are in no way intended as a professional critique of the performances


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