A joint Rambert and Royal Ballet production, Aisha and Abhaya has film by the film maker and 3-D animator Kibwe Tavares, here making his debut as a stage director, choreography by Sharon Eyal with music by her regular collaborator Ori Lichtik and GAIKA, and projections designed by Gillian Tan, with Uldus Bakhtiozina credited as costume designer and style supervisor.
The house lights go down to the sound of fierce waves crashing ashore. Slowly film of two drenched, richly appareled young women struggling out of the sea is projected onto a wide screen that hides the stage.
Aisha and Abhaya is about refugees. Deliberately presented so that you can’t place them in any one country, the two girls are the Everyman of the current global refugee crisis; and after the prologue that sees them come ashore, we’re into the first part of the film, 'The Journey.'
They join up with a group of other refugees, and we see them struggling through harsh terrain, day after day after day. The colours are washed out, the camerawork disquietingly shaky and nervy. On they trek.
As they reach the relative safety of a rock cave, the screen is pulled back to reveal the stage where seven Rambert dancers stand.
Now Sharon Eyal takes over with her trademark choreography set to the insistent, headache-inducing techno beat of Ori Lichtik’s score. Earplugs are on offer prior to the show, though perhaps ice-packs might have been more useful…
Eyal’s choreography is distinctive enough, but exists in a world of its own, irrespective of context. Thus her heavily made-up dancers, the men with bare torsos, mince and strut around on tiptoe, arms akimbo. Their movements follow syncopated repetitions, with plenty of pelvis action.
Deliberately provocative in their fluid sexuality, they are creatures of the night inhabiting some vaguely disreputable dive, moodily lit by Natasha Chivers; while behind them a moving black and white projection suggests an anonymous mega-urban nighttime landscape.
There is a hypnotic, head-banging quality to this kind of choreographic/sound combo, but it tends to go on for far too long; and in the case of Aisha and Abhaya it’s hard to see how it fits in with the prevailing narrative.
Another section of film, entitled 'Before', briefly shows the girls' carefree life before war turns them into refugees; and the piece ends with a section where a motion capture shoot depicting the huddled masses of refugees, is projected onto the curved backcloth, framing the dancers on stage.
And really, we’re left none the wiser...
Age Guidance: 11+
|Aisha and Abhaya review
|Royal Opera House, Bow Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9DD | MAP
|Covent Garden (underground)
21 Jan 20 – 09 Feb 20, 19:45 mats 1, 2, 8 & 9 at 14:45 Dur.: 1 hour no interval
|Click here to book