TeZukA – Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui: Sadler’s Wells, 6 September 2011

Bacteria to the future

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. A manga for all occasions. Drawing of Astro Boy by Osamu Tezuka

Belgian-Moroccan choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui pays homage to Osamu Tezuka, arguably the most influential manga artist of the twentieth century, in this world premiere of TeZukA.

There are several beautiful duets, particularly one involving the novel use of a paintbrush and a half-naked man.

Willy Cessa’s visuals, combined with Taiki Ueda’s clever video projections of Tezuka’s original drawings are stunningly inventive.

Nitin Sawhney’s music is exquisite, a deft blend of western and Japanese styles with some terrific vocal performances. Some of his best stuff for ages.

There’s plenty of ass-kicking martial arts action from Huang Jia Hao and Li Bo who helicopter around the stage as if they’re trying to stamp out a swarm of bees.

The show also features the best sci-fi striptease since Jane Fonda shed her spacesuit in Barbarella.

Definitely beautiful to look at. Photo by Emma Lynch.

And yet…

Somehow it doesn’t quite work.

The picture box collage of dance, music, film projections, calligraphy and narration constantly fight against each other and TeZukA lacks the straightforward narrative drive of the manga world it’s trying to inhabit.

Cherkaoui seems afraid to let his choreography express itself; he generally hides it amongst the multi-media paraphernalia ranged across the stage.

The result is that TeZukA, for all its individual moments of beauty and creativity, lacks the curvy dynamism of Tezuka’s drawings and feels overly long and unfocussed.

And there’s far too much information about bacteria.

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