The Mill, Banbury
September 22, 2016
Rewind Forward sums up Yorke Dance Project’s latest programme extremely well. Rewinding, there’s a reconstruction of Kenneth MacMillan’s take on Hamlet, his 1988 Sea of Troubles, originally made for Dance Advance, an ensemble of former members of The Royal Ballet. Looking forward there are new works by 19-year old Charlotte Edmonds, who clearly has much to look forward to, as do we, and artistic director Yolande Yorke-Edgell. Toss in Robert Cohan’s latest duet, and you have an imaginative and often fascinating mix from an excellent ensemble that is definitely worth catching.
MacMillan’s story ballets are renowned for being wonderfully clear, with all the characters well-drawn. His barefoot, highly expressionist Sea of Troubles is very different. Although individual scenes from the Shakespeare are recognisable, some are very brief and things are extremely fractured. It’s no literal telling. The fact that the narrative is reworked for just six characters (Hamlet, Gertrude, Claudius, the ghost of Hamlet’s father, Ophelia and Polonius) is the easy part. Just when you think you have it figured out, though, the dancers start interchanging roles and scenes get repeated. At one point the three men all wear crowns. Even if you know the play backwards, it gets difficult.
But don’t be put off, because Sea of Troubles is an absorbing work, with any number of strong moments. It certainly grabbed me. The whole cast looked most comfortable in the very stylised choreography. Some of the longer duets are especially powerful (in typical MacMillan fashion, the women mostly find themselves being tossed around by the men). The stand-out one for me is between Hamlet (I think, I was a bit lost by the time we got here) and Ophelia, in which she is held by the back of the neck and turned repeatedly by the head and shoulders. Ophelia’s descent into madness is also well done.
Deborah MacMillan’s designs are simple yet effective. There is no set save for a curtain upstage which serves as the arras through which Polonius is stabbed. The men are all in white shirts and black trousers, the women in grey dresses. A cloak, crown, veil or headdress of flowers tells us who is who.
Watching Charlotte Edmonds’ Self, it’s hard to believe she is still just 19. Taking the famous trio from MacMillan’s Manon, Edmonds switches thing around by centring the work around Chevalier de Grieux and his struggle to square his faith with his passion for Manon. The work is hugely intelligent and thoughtful, and was comfortably the highlight of the second half. It certainly shows why Edmonds was selected by Kevin O’Hare as the Royal Ballet’s Young Choreographer in Residence.
Edmonds confesses to being interested in storytelling. Going by Self, she certainly knows how to draw characters and relationships. Kieran Stoneley may be the man torn, but the work is dominated by Freya Jeffs as the earthy Manon character. Her rounded arms may ooze softness but the body and face tell another story. This is a lady with attitude. Every gesture said something, every look laden with meaning. Her inner thoughts were particularly clear standing to one side as Stoneley danced a softer duet with Amy Thake, whose dance and demeanour rather cleverly symbolised his faith rather than a real person. It really is powerful and impressive stuff; atmospherically lit by Adrian Plaut too.
Preceding Self, Robert Cohan’s Lacrymosa, to music by Dmitri Yanov-Yanovsky, is a duet on the loss and return of a loved one, inspired by the relationship between Jesus and Mary. Both in black, Jeffs and Phil Sanger cut strong figures. Initially full of supports, the dance and relationship becomes increasingly fractured with much reaching out and pushing away. They do eventually come back together, the sense, rather appropriately, of it being in another world.
The evening’s second premiere has less pull, for now at least. Untethered by artistic director Yolande Yorke-Edgell, a piece for the full company to music by the string quartet Brooklyn Rider, undoubtedly suffers from being only ‘Part 1’. The opening sees Amy Thake held in a web of elastics held by two men. Once she escapes, it turns into a run-of-the-mill ensemble American Modern Dance number, which like most works of that ilk is pleasant enough but doesn’t exactly grab you. While the dance does indeed become untethered, here it didn’t seem as free as it might. To be fair, part of the problem may have been the small Mill stage. Brighter lighting might perk things up too. It has to be said that most of the audience enjoyed it, but it is clearly unfinished and I’ll reserve judgement until the addition of Part 2.
Rewind Forward can be seen next at the Lilian Baylis Studio Theatre at Sadler’s Wells.
For Sunday October 2 at 6.30pm tickets are only available via https://billetto.co.uk
For Monday October 3 at 7.45pm visit www.sadlerswells.com or call the box office on 020 7863 8000.