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October 23, 2013 5:51 pm
Rambert opened its autumn season this week in Rosebery Avenue, and in December will move into its splendiferous new building on the South Bank. From December 2-14 there will be many events in the new studios – open dance rehearsals, guided tours, classes, musical rehearsals – which are free to all-comers, the only proviso being that attendance be booked in advance. The prospect is enticing. Which, alas, is more than I can say for this triple bill of works at Sadler’s Wells.
Hell, as we know, is other people, but it is also, actually and choreographically, the monstrosity that ends this Rambert offering. Programming is not of the happiest. It is good to see Mark Baldwin’s sly, elegant take on Darwinian theories in The Comedy of Change again, to hear Julian Anderson’s subtle score and watch the cool way Rambert’s artists make each point. But Ashley Page’s new Subterrain, which followed, is a vexing novelty sitting uneasily with Mark-Anthony Turnage’s score, and offering run-of-the-balletic-mill entanglements, albeit with a secure use of neo-classic language, here burdened with a nagging emotionalism.
The evening’s descent into the ignoble comes with The Castaways, an event by Barak Marshall concerning “12 souls trapped in a kind of no-man’s-land”. Marshall’s manner is blatant, proposing a scene in which six men and six women (carefully identified and thunderously boring) suffer the torments of Hades – whose chief menace is surely Marshall’s idea of theatre-dance – and offer their horrors to us in vehement activity, tireless chatter, cartoon characterisation, ear-threatening music which veers between “Balkan folk, Yiddish pop and Soviet pomp” (so says the programme), and with frenetic entanglements, bullying, and raucous mob-behaviour as its sauce diable.
The cast’s ranting is but one horrid aspect of this tasteless work. Dancing is a matter of all-too-vivacious circling and grappling. I found it cliché-ridden, undramatic save on soap-opera terms, and a bombastic affront to everything that Rambert has meant in dance over many decades. I do not recall a more vulgar production in the troupe’s long history as I have gratefully watched it. The design for the new pieces is, I suppose inevitably, glum.
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