Sadler’s Wells, London
March 20, 2019
The combination of Mark Morris and popular song is irresistible. Judging by the age of many in the audience, expectations were high for an evening of Beatles tribute songs, but this was not to be. Some old favourites, ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’, ‘Penny Lane’ and ‘A Day in the Life’, are there and still recognisable in their reworked form (‘When I’m Sixty-Four’ is a particularly innovative arrangement). In between are compositions by Ethan Iverson inspired by the album. Some you win, some you lose.
Set against a pile of shiny balloon with a backdrop of constantly changing hue, dancers in psychedelic coloured suits and dresses bring back the eye-watering mix of the ’60s where orange meets pink, and purple mates with yellow. Morris is one of the few contemporary choreographers to celebrate the joy of jumping and serotonin levels soared as the cast bounced through the numbers.
However, it is not all candy-floss. Lurking beneath is a mastermind as Morris takes ordinary steps and crafts them into something amazing. Just when you think you know where a step is going, it doesn’t. He finds art in the ordinary and that’s the fun of it. ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’ worked a treat in a sort of chorus line fashion. The structure is super smart, the humour droll, as dancers line up, yet again, for another repeat of the fan kick routine, dancers adding to their numbers or peeling off as the number progresses.
By the time the dancers reached ‘A Day in the Life’, the impetus flagged with Morris seeming to take an easy route with the dancers miming to the words. It is no easy task to sustain the bright coloured bonhomie for an hour, but the dancers do a brilliant job. Many of the old favourites were in evidence, like Lauren Grant whose spirit is never less than effervescent. The Beatles magic was in force in the reprise of ‘Sgt. Pepper’ and a final LSD fuelled meltdown. ABBA next Mr M?
Pepperland by Mark Morris Dance Group continues on tour. Visit www.danceconsortium.com for dates and venues.