They ain’t heavy
Many hands… Michael Hulls examines Lightspace. Photo by Heathcliff O’ Malley
In a welcome break with tradition Sadler’s Wells have given the run of the place to a pair of lighting designers and a composer (the only two choreographers allowed in are confined to making a movie each). No Body could have ended up little more than a glamourised backstage tour but instead it turned out to be something that, at times, was truly wonderful.
The definite highlight, Lightspace, came right at the beginning, courtesy of Michael Hulls. Having presented your ticket you scamper through the stalls and onto the main stage where you encounter ten large chandelier-type things each made up of about 30 naked lightbulbs. They’re hanging at roughly head-height and they pulse slowly on and off in syncopated patterns to the accompaniment of a non-descript ambient soundscape. Hmm. It looks nice but is a bit dull.
But then the chandeliers suddenly lift up into flies, the music cranks up a notch and before you know it you’re being zapped down upon by giant pyramids of light. You’re basically now a performer in a Russell Maliphant show, albeit one giggling with childlike glee at the pretty patterns and sticking your hand through the light beams, just to see what happens.
Once that’s done you’re handed a pair of headphones that put all kinds of atmospheric sounds into your brain and, following a bubble-trail marked on the floor, you wend your merry way around the various installations that lurk in the internal fabric of the theatre.
Nitin Sawhney’s Indelible is a series of massive projections on the foyer walls featuring the many different companies that have performed in the building over the years. It’s kind of interesting but unfortunately comes across as an enormous Sadler’s Wells advertisement rather than a celebration of history.
A day’s shoot is always interesting. Siobhan Davies’ The Running Tongue
The Running Tongue is a cleverly made, endlessly running film by Siobhan Davies that holds the interest for about 2 minutes. Russell Maliphant’s Kairos is again beautifully filmed in exquisite detail but the forever unwinding dancers caked in clay don’t hold the attention for long either. Somewhere between these two cinematic outbursts there’s a room that responds to the noises you make – that’s fun.
The other large-scale work comes from Lucy Carter. Hidden has three elements; 1) a wardrobe room jam-packed with costumes and tools of the trade, 2) a look inside the lighting and sound control booths, complete with a bossy voice-over dishing out cues, and 3) something marvellous called Light Store.
Light Store is squeezed into the orchestra pit and requires you to sit on an old wooden chair while an enormous array of lights flash on and off all around you. The patterns they create are so wide ranging you’re forced to physically move your head to see them all. They respond brilliantly to the rising flow of Jules Maxwell’s score, creating the closest thing to dancing in the entire show.
The whole production is called No Body ostensibly because there are no physical dancers performing live. But there are, of course, plenty of bodies on display; that of the audience, and one of the great joys of the whole event is watching, and being part of, how everyone responds to the stimulation being offered. Personally, I had a great time and the Michael Hulls work is undoubtedly one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in a theatre.
No Body runs until 12 June 2016. There are several performance times a day so check the Sadler’s Wells website for start times and tickets.