Presented by Adelaide Festival Centre
Reviewed 22 Sept 2017
As a teenager, Akram Khan performed in Peter Brook’s seminal work Mahabharata. Now in middle-age, and with residencies at Sadler’s Wells London and Curve Leicester, Khan has revisited this epic in Until the Lions.
One of the stories in the Mahabharata revolves around Amba, a princess who is abducted on her wedding day. Her story raises questions of female autonomy, gender identity and power. Re-told by Karthika Nair in Until the Lions: Echoes from the Mahabharata, we now see the story from Amba’s point-of-view. “Until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.”
Khan, partly adapting Nair’s work, has developed a theatrical piece that defines traditional definitions. It is not so much a ballet as a movement piece which uses dance. It is not performed to music so much as to a soundscape which includes musical pieces. The movements borrow from the vocabulary of traditional Indian dance, rhythmic gymnastics and fight-choreography. It is both complex and simple; beautiful and ugly; harsh and gentle. Above all, it is spectacle from start to finish.
Dancers Ching-Ying Chien, Joy Alpuerto Ritter and Rianto leave the audience in no doubt that they are at the peak of their careers, giving faultless performances, both in terms of technicality and emotion. Their work is showcased on a brilliant stage design by Tim Yip, which is not so much bare, as stripped of all but the necessary. A simple, circular riser, hides secrets of lighting and smoke, which transform it into myriad settings. Sitting around the circle are musicians Sohini Alam, Joseph Ashwin, David Azurza and Yaron Engler, who provide much of the soundscape, and also play strong roles in the action. These five collaborated on the score, with composer Vincenzo Lamagna.
This is dance theatre as it should be. An Australian premiere, Until the Lions is typical of the outstanding standard of work that the OzAsia Festival brings us each year. The opening night audience gave it a standing ovation. This is a master-work.
Reviewed by Tracey Korsten
Venue: Dunstan Playhouse
Season: 22-23rd September 7.30 pm
Duration: 60 minutes