Peacock Theatre, London
October 4, 2023
Sometimes, if you are lucky, you experience something that becomes a defining moment in your life. Message in a Bottle was such a moment for me.
Devised, directed, and choreographed by Kate Prince, it tells the story of a family forced by civil war to flee their home and make a treacherous sea journey. Having survived living in a refugee camp, when they finally get visas, the three surviving siblings try to start their lives again, haunted by their memories and loved ones lost.
Prince believes that Message in a Bottle has a message of hope, of finding peace after trauma, resilience in the face of desperation. The joyous moments are truly joyous, but the dark ones look into the gates of hell, and what you see there will not be easily forgotten. This is a complete unity, where everything is slotted-in and tied together so profoundly that it is hard to imagine them as separate entities.
Prince weaves her choreography through Sting’s music so skilfully that the two feel as if they were created one for the other. There are no blind spots. The dance is intense, inspiring and passionate. The set (by Ben Stones) is disarmingly simple and wonderfully creative, turning by innovative use of light and sound (Natasha Chives and David McEwan respectively), from a sunny village, to war, to a desperate sea storm, to a frighteningly brutal refugee camp. Video by Andrzej Goulding is used to ethereal effect, and Anna Fleischle’s costumes are absolutely right.
The dancers dance in the moment, every moment. Their skill and technique are a real pleasure to watch. Everything is clean and excellently executed, and their ability to pour intense drama into the movement takes makes it so much more. Whilst all are highly polished performers, mention must be made of the three siblings, whose combination of dance skill and dramatic ability turn Message in a Bottle from simply an excellent piece of theatre into something quite extraordinary and totally unforgettable.
Message in a Bottle is at the Peacock Theatre, London to October 14, 2023.