Presented by Akram Khan Company
Reviewed 1 November 2019
In 2017 Akram Khan Company wowed OzAsia audiences with Until the Lions, a contemporary reworking of part of the Mahabarata saga.
This year the company returns offering a similar myth-based work, Outwitting The Devil.
Based on the Sumerian epic, an ageing Gilgamesh looks back on the most violent episode of his life, when he and Enkidu journey to the great Cedar Forest and proceed to destroy it. The narrative is multi-layered; both complex and simple. It is an examination of power, memory, mortality and the nature of narrative itself.
Khan’s choreography again demonstrates why he is one of the greatest contemporary dance creators currently working. The work is as layered as the narrative, with elements of vocabulary from classical ballet, Indian dance and circus. It is punishing on the dancers who, for 80 minutes perform this gruelling work with no breaks. Ching-Ying Chien, Dominique Petit, Mythili Prakash, Sam Asa Pratt, James Vu Anh Pham and Jasper Narvaez own the stage. They are individually dancers of breath-taking technical skill, and collectively an electric and passionate ensemble who look as if they were born to deliver this work to the world. Working together with Khan, they each contributed original material.
Integral to the production is the music and sound design of Vincenzo Lamagna. The atmosphere is set, even as the audience is still filing in, with low sounds and haze effects acting as a warning of the story to come. At times the sound was so loud as to be almost painful, but that is exactly where it needed to be. Sound and dance at times melded so exquisitely that it was as if the sound were responding to the dancers, rather than vice versa. Add Tom Scutt’s visual design and Aideen Malone’s lighting, and what we are presented with is theatre at its best. Khan’s work eschews dance for dance’s sake. Every element is there for a reason, and must respond to every other element.
Outwitting The Devil is powerful, moving, difficult and extraordinary. Last night’s audience responded to it with a standing ovation. This is one of the world’s great dance companies. This is an outstanding piece of dance-theatre.
Reviewed by Tracey Korsten
Venue: Dunstan Playhouse
Season: 1-2nd November 2019
Duration: 80 minutes