IDFB 2014: The Lord of the Flies by Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures

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Upon first learning that Matthew Bourne’s Lord of the Flies was coming to the Birmingham Hippodrome as part of the International Dance Festival 2014, it was almost impossible to imagine what a ballet interpretation of William Golding’s iconic, dystopian novel might look like. In theory, the two seem rather an odd combination, yet in practice, together they work amazingly well.

Less a traditional ballet than a kind of silent play with dancing, this New Adventures’ adaptation manages to get right to the heart of Golding’s story. At times, the dancers are menacing, unleashing the darkness of human nature in cleverly choreographed fights, hunts and tribal rituals. On the other hand, the more playful movements and sequences serve as a continual reminder of the innocence and vulnerability of the characters: as terribly as they behave, the show refuses to let us forget that its subjects are ultimately only children, left to fend for themselves with no adult support or guidance. As Golding’s daughter, Judy writes in the programme,

“children are entitled to the protection of adults – protection not only from a hostile world, but also from their own natures. It isn’t fair that Ralph and Jack and Piggy and Simon have to do without adults.”

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Perhaps the production’s most disturbing aspect is its strong militaristic undercurrent, present right from the very beginning with a long, disciplined march that takes place before the boys become stranded. This theme emerges again in the form of the khaki-clad ghost seen by Simon, and at the end of the show, when the children are finally rescued: looking like a modern British soldier, their disturbed saviour could easily have walked right out of a conflict in the Middle East. This reflects ideas explored in the original novel, which set during a wartime evacuation, and was partly inspired by Golding’s own first-hand experience of brutality in war.

Danny Reubens is fantastically sinister as Jack, managing to induce fear, yet also to arouse pity, in viewers: he is instinctively aggressive, but also immature and desperate for the admiration of the other boys. Jack and his thuggish friend Roger (Dan Wright)  are brilliantly off-set by Dominic North as the good-natured Ralph, along with his hapless friends Piggy and Simon, played by Sam Plant and Layton Williams. But it wasn’t just the New Adventures dancers who were impressive: the young, local cast were amazing, quickly proving themselves more than capable of keeping up with the professionals.

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Throughout the show, the performers managed to strike a great balance between complex dancing and physical storytelling, portraying the characters and their journey with perfect clarity. As someone who has never read the original novel, I had no trouble understanding the plot. This is, perhaps, dance at its most accessible, for both audiences and performers alike.

Click here for more information about the International Dance Festival Birmingham 2014, which continues until the end of next week.

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Coming Up at the International Dance Festival Birmingham 2014

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With the International Dance Festival Birmingham 2014 now over a week underway, there are still plenty more exciting shows to look forward to before the month is through.

After their eagerly anticipated openings last night, both Sylvie Guillem’s 6000 Miles Away and the Aakash Odedra Company’s double bill Murmur & Inked will be returning this evening to the Birmingham Hippodrome, on the main stage and in the Patrick Centre, respectively. Widely hailed as one of the world’s greatest dancers, in 6000 Miles Away, Sylvie Guillem performs William Forsythe’s Rearray and Mats Ek’s Bye, set to Beethoven’s last sonata. Meanwhile, in Murmur and Inked, Aakash Odedra collaborates with choreographer Lewis Major, the Ars Electronica Futurelab and Oliver Award-winner Damien Jalet, to explore themes of dyslexia and the transformation of the body through scarring and tattoos.

Bye, solo choreographed by Mats Ek for Sylvie Guillem 2010

From Thursday through to the weekend, you’ll be able to catch some awe-inspiring acrobatics from groundbreaking Montreal circus company Les 7 Doigts de la Main in Séquence 8 at the Birmingham REP, as well as some impressive work from Birmingham City University’s School of Architecture, which will be displayed in a Millennium Point open exhibition titled All of Birmingham is a Stage.

OOn Friday and Saturday, Company Decalage will present a world premiere double bill of Match & Half Way to the Other Side in the Hippodrome’s Patrick Centre, while outside, Corey Baker Dance will be giving passers-by the chance to experience some traditional Maori Haka dancing in Centenary Square.

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Next week’s festivities will kick off on Tuesday with Border Tales from Luca Silvestrini’s Protein, a witty, satirical show blending dance, dialogue and live music, and taking place in the Patrick Centre. From Wednesday, the Hippodrome’s main stage will be taken over by Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures for a chilling yet beautiful dance adaptation of William Golding’s The Lord of the Flies. Finally on Saturday, those a little more strapped for cash can enjoy an array of free, outdoor dance performances at Put Your Foot Down in Spiceall Street, near the Bullring.

There’ll also be lots to see and do during the last week of the festival (more on this soon), including DJs, dancers, workshops and demonstrations and Sadler’s Wells’s Breakin’ Convention, and an exploration of Argentinian tango in Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s M¡longa, both in the Hippodrome theatre.

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For more information on all upcoming shows and to book tickets, visit the IDFB website.

International Dance Festival Birmingham: Sideways Rain by Alias

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Created by acclaimed director and choreographer Guilherme Botelho and performed by his award-winning company Alias, Sideways Rain is an unbroken hour of mesmerising, cinematic sound and movement that sees sixteen dancers repeatedly cross the stage in countless different ways.

Skilful, powerful and athletic, the cast perform complex and impossible-seeming manoeuvres, crawling, sliding, somersaulting and tumbling their way round in endless circles. Though the stage is bare and the dancers are few in number, the show itself seems to span vast expanses of time and space, from the evolution of man to the hectic, relentless bustle of modern-day cities, all the while accompanied by a soundtrack which is by turns uplifting, nightmarish and hypnotic.

The dancers begin on all fours, scrabbling like insects or plodding and prowling slowly like large mammals. Gradually, they begin to rise and walk, and yet for most of the show, little changes: still they move aimlessly and repeatedly across the stage, always heading towards the inevitable as various “characters” appear and disappear, endlessly completing the little circuits of their lives.

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Days, weeks and even years seem to pass before anyone pauses to consider their condition, and this happens just twice in the whole show. First, a couple stop and stare at each other as crowds rush past them, their eyes wistful and confused as they seem to trawl each others’ depths for meaning. When one then drops to the floor and rolls away, the remaining dancer is left alone, wandering the stage and curiously observing those around her, before she, too is finally pulled back into the indiscriminate tide. The second time, another dancer stops suddenly, as if shocked or startled, and proceeds to try to wake those around him out of their collective trance. Naturally he fails: those around him appear to share a sort of hive consciousness, whereby if one moves to avoid him, everyone on stage makes the same movement. Eventually, a push from behind shunts him back into the crowd.

These short interludes make us feel as though there should be some sort of climax – as though the all the incessant, dizzying and almost involuntary movement must stop somewhere. But a satisfying resolution is something we are never granted. In the end, the dancers return, disrobed and laid bare, to their creeping and crawling prehistoric state, suggesting, perhaps, that we have never really moved on at all.

Is it an incitement to stop and think about the world around us, to consider our place within it and to find our own meanings; or is it simply an expression of an absence of meaning and the futility of humanity’s drive towards change and progression? Guilherme Botelho doesn’t give us any easy answers….

Images by Jean-Yves Genoud.

International Dance Festival Birmingham – Get Ready for a Month of Dance Shows!

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From now until Sunday 25th May, a series of exciting dance events will be taking place in venues across the city as part of this year’s International Dance Festival Birmingham.

Jointly produced by the Birmingham Hippodrome and DanceXchange, the IDFB ranks among the world’s biggest dance festivals, and aims to showcase a diverse array of talent in styles and settings ranging from ballet to urban fusion, traditional Maori to circus skills, pop-up street performances to seated theatre shows. Whether you’re a die-hard dance fan or simply interested in finding out more, you’re almost guaranteed to find something to catch your interest on this year’s jam-packed schedule!

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Having already kicked off with a collection of short works by the Birmingham Royal Ballet at the Crescent Theatre, the programme of events continues this evening with the Midlands Youth Dance Festival, organised by Dance4 in collaboration with DanceXchange.

On Tuesday, I’ll be attending Sideways Rain, a contemporary dance performance by Genevan company Alias and the first of several shows taking place at the Hippodrome over the next few weeks (watch this space for my review). Other shows coming up at the Hippodrome include Kidd Pivot’s Tempest Replica, Sylvie Guillem’s 6000 Miles Away, New Adventures’ The Lord of the Flies, Sadler’s Wells’s Breakin’ Convention and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s M¡longa. The theatre’s Patrick Centre will also be taken over at different points during the festival by Murmur & Inked, a double bill from the highly sought-after Aakash Odedra Company; the world premiere of Company Decalage’s Match & Halfway to the Other Side; Aerites’s witty, hip-hop fusion piece Planites; and Protein’s Border Tales, a satirical blend of dance, dialogue and live music.

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Elsewhere, Symphony Hall will play host to the world premiere of Concert Dansé, a unique collaboration between Birmingham’s Ex Cathedra choir and Québécois dance troupe Cas Public, while at the Birmingham REP, you’ll be able to catch some spectacular circus skills in Séquence 8 from Les 7 Doits De La Main. The IDFB will even be extending its reach beyond Birmingham’s borders to Coventry’s Warwick Arts Centre with Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre‘s sharply contrasting Petrushka and The Rite of Spring shows.

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If you don’t have much cash to splash this month, though, you needn’t miss out on the festivities: there will also be plenty of free outdoor shows taking place at Village Green, Cannon Hill Park and throughout the city centre. These include Corey Baker Dance‘s mobile, audience-led Headphones (follow @IDFB #headphones on Twitter to find out the exact locations on the day, and send in your dance styles and music genres choices); traditional Maori Haka demonstrations; Denada Dance Theatre’s “duel of seduction”, Young Man!; Candoco Dance Company’s Tennesee Williams-inspired duet, Studies For C; and various freestyle and urban shows from professional and community groups. Work by students from Birmingham City University’s School of Architecture will also be displayed in an exhibition at Millennium Point titled “All of Birmingham is a Stage” .

For more information on times and locations, and to book tickets for indoor shows, visit the IDFB website.

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