Although INALA has no linear narrative, there are hints of a community dynamic among the cast, as they go about their day to day business. The choir’s use of mime goes some way towards bridging the language barrier: we see, for example, actions that denote fishing or the milking of cows.
Initially, the action gently plods, reins are handed from choir to dancers and back again. The action culminates at the end of Act One with one dancer's attempt to escape to the city, where his life spirals out of control (cue dramatic bursts of lighting and spectral skeleton costuming). Act Two focuses on forgiveness and the importance of community and home.
Previous iterations of the production have always attracted a high pedigree of dance talent, and the same applies this time. The former Rambert artistic director Mark Baldwin’s choreography responds eloquently to the vocals of the choir and rhythmic score. Baldwin blends familiar Western style classical steps with angular, earthy tribal dance influences.
As the curtain goes up we see the full cast of dancers facing away from us, all standing on one leg, arms raised above their heads, in a flamingo-like pose. Throughout the males repeatedly enter and exit the stage with the flying leaps of a gazelle in a fusion of animalistic and balletic movement.
INALA Cast, photo Johan Persson
Whether deliberately or by coincidence, the current troupe are notably long-limbed. The former Semperoper Ballett dancer Ashleigh Wilson need only spread her arms out wide, or dévelopé with one glorious sweep of her leg to produce impressive results.
The winner of BBC Young Dancer 2017, Nafisah Baba, makes her West End debut and dances with a distinctive steely, fiery style and commanding stage presence. Richard Alston Company dancer Elly Braund is gifted with the most classical choreography, dancing a number of tender pas de deux with the equally capable Nicholas Shikkis, who provides strong support. Braund’s technique is assured, pirouetting barefoot without a hint of trouble.
Act Two offers up more personality from the hearty cast. There’s a section where the choir attempt to copy the dancers balletic moves, much to the amusement of young audience members. Some of the female vocalists roll their eyes at the clumsy display, while the men play for laughs with comical exaggeration of the steps.
There are no weak individual components of INALA. The emotive voices of the gospel choir are enhanced by female vocals that were not present in previous tours. The dancers are powerful and exhibit great quality of movement, and Temple Clark’s set is simple in rustic brown tones.
However, structurally something is amiss. Dancers dash on and off stage after only brief sections of choreography, singers come to the front, sometimes obstructing the audience’s view of the troupe.
It’s an equalitarian cast, where there is no single star. Before the audience can fully enjoy each dancer’s individuality, another dancer takes over. Add to the concoction the absence of surtitles for the Zulu songs and the end result lacks a clear vision.
Sisters Grimm's INALA would benefit from further development of the characters, or a narrative that engages the audience for the full length of the programme. As it is, the production hovers ambiguously between story-based and abstract work. Nonetheless, it still offers a culturally rich and varied experience that is visually exciting.
|Sisters Grimm, INALA Review
|Peacock Theatre, Portugal Street, London, WC2A 2HT | MAP
30 Apr 19 – 18 May 19, 19:30 Sat 14:30, Sun 14:00 & 18:30 (no show 12 May) Dur.: 1hour 45 mins inc one interval
|£18-£55 (+booking fee)
|Click here to book via Sadler's Wells website