In the second performance of the Sadler’s new season to take to a gig stage (Hofesh Shechter appeared at the Brixton Academy in October) Kathak and contemporary star Akram Khan brings a brand new production to the Roundhouse.
Khan explores the ancient story, from the Sanskrit poem of the Mahabharata, of Amba, an Indian princess abducted on her wedding day. Spurned now by her true love, Amba vows to wreak revenge on her kidnapper Bheeshma, finally defeating him in her second life as the warrior Shikhandi.
Set in the round, the stage is a slab of wood pierced through with spear-like bamboo. Dancer Christine Joy Ritter is first to enter as Shikhandi, a panther-like force moving like an animal in familiar territory. Ching-Ying Chien as Amba is a small, precise figure with a flying sheet of black hair, so articulate in every movement that her toes land one by one even in walking.
Akram Khan is the marauding Bheeshma, first perpetrator then victim of Amba/Shikhandi's cool-headed revenge.
The pure dance talent of this trio is mind-boggling, too much in fact for the rather unvaried, relentless material that fills the middle of the piece. Exchanges between the three are abstract, and insufficiently distinct for the narrative style set up at the opening of the work.
Thankfully the opening and ending sections are poetic scenes, and the final tableau a ravishing vision of vengeance delivered.
Traditional music comes from regular Khan collaborator David Azurza and musicians Sohini Alam and Yaron Engler. Khan reunites much of the team behind his 2011 success, DESH, a work of gorgeous visual trickery, including the visual artist Tim Yip (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), award-winning lighting designer Michael Hulls, and dramaturg Ruth Little.
The whole is based on poet Karthika Nair's version of the myth, taking its name from the proverb 'Until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.'
It must be difficult being Akram Khan. His unique blend of traditional Kathak dance and contemporary Western movement has led him to wow audiences at the Olympic opening ceremony, setting the bar almost impossibly high. English National Ballet’s Dust was so powerful our reviewer barely remembered to breathe.
Parts of Until the Lions reach those lofty heights, re-ascending after a disappointing dip. An unforgettable show is just an edit away.
You can catch film of the Until the Lions rehearsals LIVE on Periscope TV here in the week leading up to opening. Get involved behind the scenes!
|What||Akram Khan Company: Until the Lions, The Roundhouse|
Chalk Farm Road, London, NW1 8EH | MAP
|Nearest tube||Chalk Farm (underground)|
09 Jan 16 – 24 Jan 16, Previews Sat 9 & Mon 11
|Website||Click here to book via the Sadler's Wells website|